Biomedicine in museums

Companies preparing skeletons for schools in the early post-war period

My curiosity was just raised by a mail inquiry by Stuart Tallack, who’s asking members of the UK Medical Collections Group for help to clarify a memory from the late 1950s:

I visited a company that prepared and articulated skeletons. A room at the back of the premises contained two tanks, one of caustic solution and the other of plain water. Both had gas flames beneath and were used to clean the skeletons of earth and tissue. I do not remember the room where they were articulated with springs and wires but I do recall the office and its cabinet of older and more interesting specimens. I seem to remember shaking the hand of a seven foot Russian, long dead, but still impressive.

The company must have been near University College Hospital as I went via Goodge Street station and crossed to the Gower Street side of Tottenham Court Road. For personal reasons, I would like to find out who the company was and where it was located. My visit would have been in about 1957.

I’m sure Stuart would appreciate some additional help from readers of this blog as well. And maybe others have similar experiences.

But more interestingly — how common were such companies preparing and articulating skeletons? They were producing for school and med school purposes, I presume? Was there one company delivering throughout Europe, or many regional/local companies delivering to local schools?

Where did they get the bodies from? And when did this practice end (i.e., when did plastic skeletons take over)? Topic for a Master’s thesis?

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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