The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England contains one of the oldest medical collections in Britain. The core of the collection consists of over 3,500 specimens of human and animal anatomy and pathology from the private museum of the surgeon and naturalist John Hunter (1728-93). Following Hunter’s death, the collection was purchased by the government and presented to the Company of Surgeons, where it provided the foundation for the College’s Hunterian Museum in the early nineteenth century.
Recently refurbished, and short-listed for the Gulbenkian Museum of the Year Award in 2006, the Hunterian is an accredited public museum with over 45,000 visitors a year. Its displays cover Hunter’s work and the development of surgery and its associated sciences since the eighteenth century. As well as specimens and medical instruments, the museum includes a small but important fine art collection, with works by George Stubbs, Benjamin West, William Hodges, and Philip Reinagle from John Hunter’s own collection, as well as a portrait collection built up by the Company and the College since the late eighteenth century.
The Hunterian Museum is closely linked with the College Library and Archive, which holds an important collection of over 80,000 books, journals, and manuscripts that cover not only surgery but also the medical and natural sciences.
The Hunterian Museum has an active research interest in the history of medical collections since the eighteenth century and the history of surgical instruments. In addition, the museum has worked closely with external curators, researchers, and artists on a number of exhibitions and other projects. Details of the museum’s current and past exhibitions and events programmes are available through the museum website.
The Hunterian Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm. The museum is open to all. Admission is free and no appointment is needed. However, researchers wishing to use the reserve collections should make an appointment before visiting.