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Biomedicine in museums

Anatomical collections as cultural heritage

By December 22, 2011No Comments

A couple of months ago, I announced a three day meeting titled ‘Cultures of Anatomical Collections’, which some of our good medical museum colleagues in Leiden were about to put together for mid-February 2012.

Their aim was to explore anatomical preparations and collections as cultural heritage rather than scientific collections; they were interested in what the technical details of anatomical preparations tell us about the ideas of their maker; how ideas about beauty and perfection have shaped preparations; how the preparations have been used for teaching purposes; how the interest of non-medical audiences have shaped the collections; how curatorial decisions have affected the build-up of collections; etc. 

Now people have sent in their proposals and Rina Knoeff and her colleagues have put a very exciting programme together, which is well worth a trip to Leiden:

  • Rina Knoeff: Patients, Preparations and the Public eye
  • Ruben Verwaal: From Body to Specimen: Physicians and their Patients in Dutch Pathological Collections, 1770-1830
  • Roberta Ballestriero: Between Beauty and Anatomy, Artistic Influences and Influence of Art on Wax Anatomical Collections
  • Carin Berkowitz: Envisioning Anatomy and Practicing Pedagogy: Crafting Anatomical Science through Systems of Display in Enlightenment Britain
  • Bjorn Okholm Skaarup: Anatomical Collections in the Early Modern Art Academy
  • Andrew Cunningham: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Or, what Richard Owen did to John Hunter’s Collection
  • Ruth Richardson: Performance Reading: Organ Music… about the specimens’ relations to each other within the Museum, at night
  • Anita Guerrini: Inside the Charnel House: making and showing early modern skeletons
  • Marieke Hendriksen: The meaning of mercury: materiality and aesthesis in the eighteenth century Leiden anatomical collections
  • Lucia Dacome: An inescapable and almost incredible pleasure’: Anatomical Waxworks in mid-eighteenth-century Italy
  • Simon Chaplin: Medical museums, Modernism and ‘the Need for Reform’
  • Hieke Huistra: Dead body in the closet – How the public disappeared from the Leiden anatomical cabinet
  • Cindy Stelmackowich: Anatomical Collections and Scientific Medicine in the Nineteenth Century
  • Laurens de Rooy: Martinus Woeneman’s German Trip and the Foundation of Dutch Experimental Embryology
  • Stephen Kenny: How Southern Culture Shaped Museum Collecting: African-Americans as Medical Specimens
  • Sam Alberti: From Subject to Object: Body Parts as Artefacts
  • Tim Huisman: From famulus to custos; who was the anatomy servant?
  • Paul Lambers: The Historical Collection on Zoological Anatomy and Morphology of the University Museum of the University of Utrecht
  • Tricia Close König: talogues and Observations, Logbooks and Atlases: Paper Technologies and 20th Century Pathological Collections
  • Flavio Häner: More than the Sum of Its Parts – Anatomical Collections and Museums as Historical Objects
  • Birgit Nemec: Visual Cultures of Anatomy on Display. Places, Politics and Publics of Anatomical Images in Early 20th Century Vienna
  • Anna Märker: Model students and ambassador users: the role of the public for the global marketing and distribution of nineteenth-century anatomical models
  • Alfons Zarzoso / José Pardo Tomás; Rise and Fall of the Roca Museum: A Scientific Collection for the Laity
  • Kathryn A. Hoffmann: Lovely Bones, Lost Histories. Bringing Collections back to the Public
  • Nike Fakiner: Sites for Frightening Experiences: Anatomical Exhibitions in the 19th and the Beginning of 20th Century Germany
  • Glenn Harcourt: Terrifying Beauty: The Public Face of the Mütter Museum
  • Karen Ingham: Narrative Remains and Anatomical Collections: An Intervention at London’s Hunterian Museum
  • Lisa Temple-Cox: Making Myself a Monster: Self-Portraiture as Medical Specimen
  • Dries van Dam: Conservation issues in the Leiden anatomical collections

The meeting takes place at Museum Boerhaave on Wednesday 15 – Friday 17 February. For more info, contact Rina Knoeff on

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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