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13th April 2023

Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England will reopen to the public on Tuesday 16th May

Museum launches new website this week to give global access to one of the world’s most influential medical collections

After a six-year closure, the Hunterian Museum bursts back onto London’s cultural scene this week with the launch of a new website and the announcement that the museum doors will open on Tuesday 16th May. Entrance will be free.

The £4.6 million museum re-design, by award winning design studio Casson Mann, is part of a larger redevelopment of the Royal College of Surgeons of England’s headquarters at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in central London. The Hunterian Museum includes the display of over 2,000 anatomical preparations made by the 18th century surgeon anatomist John Hunter, from whom the museum takes its name. The specimens are displayed alongside instruments, equipment, models, paintings and archive material, which trace the history of surgery from ancient times to the latest robot-assisted operations.

The mesmeric and ethereal homage to surgery, Concourse (2) by artist Barbara Hepworth will be on permanent display in the museum for the first time. Part of Hepworth’s Hospital Drawings series, made in 1948, the same year the NHS was born, Hepworth wanted to portray the ‘extraordinary beauty of purpose and co-ordination’ of surgical teams. Teamwork is also at the heart of a newly commissioned film of an orthopaedic operation performed at the Wirrall University Teaching Hospital. With the use of time-lapse editing a 90-minute operation is condensed to just ten, revealing a ballet-like choreography as the surgical staff give all their attention to the patient, centre stage.

These and many other new audio visuals and objects on public display for the first time can also be found on the Hunterian Museum’s new website which launches this week. Designed by Brighton based digital agency Cogapp, the new platform rolls out the Hunterian Museum to a global audience, opening up new opportunities for debate and engagement with one of the world’s most influential medical collections. The new website is rich with recently digitised collections material, online exhibitions, films, talks, games and key visitor information.

Dawn Kemp, Director of Museums and Special Collections at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said:

“This May marks the 210th anniversary of the Hunterian Museum opening at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. It is tremendously exciting to be able to welcome the public back after a six-year closure.

“The Hunterian Museum has been a place where history has been made, both for good and bad. The place where dinosaurs were named; where Charles Darwin came for advice on the fossils he found half the world away; where the pioneer of computing, Charles Babbage sent his brain to be put on display. It is also where some of those closely involved in the Western ‘colonial project’ developed sinister and awful ideas on racial theory.

“Its history makes it a unique place to contemplate what it is to be human. A place to reflect and consider our shared and finite natural world and our responsibility to care for the well-being of our fellow humans and all living things. A place to exchange ideas and views and to review our shared histories through the widest possible lens.”

Roger Mann, founder and director, Casson Mann, said:

“To re-imagine the display of the Hunterian Museum’s rich and varied collection was a unique opportunity to create a series of jewel-like galleries full of surprising and curious juxtapositions and wonderful stories. We hope that medical professionals and visitors alike will enjoy this journey of discovery and appreciate the extraordinary contributions of John Hunter and others who pioneered the field of medical and surgical knowledge”.