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The Great Exhibition

11 June 2014

To celebrate our final day of the Museum ‘as it was’ before redevelopment, we held a special day of art and music. On 17th May, almost 1,000 visitors joined us to have a final look at the exhibition, create artworks for our ‘Great Exhibition’ and to experience live musical performances by The Edinburgh International Festival and Scottish Singer Wendy Carle Taylor.

The art classes started with ‘Barclay’s Book’ with Susie Wilson. Each art class was themed with a notable character from the Museum’s history and featured objects from the collections and archives to inspire the attendees and engage a wider audience with medical collections. The first class looked at John Barclay’s deed of settlement of 1824-28, which details the comparative anatomy collection donated to the Museum in 1821.  The class recreated their version of the settlement book, which contains 1167 specimens and includes entries on ‘flying serpents’, ‘a ram with 4 horns’, ‘a boa constrictor (stuffed)’ and ‘head of a snake injected with quicksilver.

The Anatomist pathology modelling class with Jane Weatherly looked at bone deformities and produced a number of unusual, hilarious and disturbing works!  This class used 3D methods to engage visitors with the concept of ‘bone as a dynamic entity’ by using clay, paint and soap (although there was a high percentage of eye specimens made!). Special thanks to our HR department for the use of their microwave.

Our forensic skull class produced some wonderful drawings, thanks to the tuition of Forensic Artist Gillian Taylor. Former facial surgeon and Fellow of The College, Mr Tony Watson was on hand throughout the class to demonstrate examples of different skull deformities from the collections and talk about the effects that illness, disease and deformity has on the form and function of the face.

Our special architectural drawing class highlighted features of Playfair’s original neoclassical 1832 structure and also considered the floral developments made by Balfour Paul to create the Main Playfair Hall and Jules Thorn Museums.

Musical highlights of the day were courtesy of Edinburgh International Festival ‘Ghosts in the gallery’ with a beautifully moving performance commemorating love and courage in World War One by Tenor Chris Elliott, Soprano Emma Morwood and Pianist Andrew Brown, not forgetting the wonderful Festival Chorus.  A big thank you goes to Project Manager Emma Hay.

Our evening finished with a special celebration of Edinburgh rich and colourful medical history with a performance by Wendy Carle Taylor. Thank you to Wendy for helping us to bid a fond au revoir to the Museum as we knew it. We worked with Wendy to create an especially relevant event for our unique museum. Wendy’s performance included a song recorded in nurse E.M. Wallace’s diary from 1917, The Ballard of Burke and Hare,  a verse written about ‘the examining fogies of The Royal College of Surgeons’ by Arthur Conan Doyle, and ended with a rousing chorus of ‘dem bones’.


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