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Object of the Month

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Aortic Arch

Aortic Arch

This month’s object is a dissection showing the blood vessels rising from the heart and the nerves from the spinal column. The red part of the specimen is the main artery leaving the heart and the major arteries branching from it. The nerves that branch off from the spine are painted white. This particular object is part of the Struthers collection. John Struthers retired as Professor of Anatomy at Aberdeen University in 1889 and returned to Edinburgh, where he had studied medicine and worked as a surgeon and teacher. Struthers became President of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh from 1895-1897 and during this time he donated his private anatomy collection to the College. Specimens such as this one were prepared by Struthers by injecting coloured wax into blood vessels to highlight their path. The specimens were then varnished to prevent decay.

Dental Forceps

Dental Forceps

This month’s object comes from the Dental Collection at Surgeons’ Hall Museums. These forceps are for usage when extracting maxillary molars. On this particular object, the rivet of the box joint is covered on the front and the back with a strip of decorated brass and the handles are richly ornamented. These forceps were made by a blacksmith.

Lung with Tuberculosis

Lung with Tuberculosis

Our monthly object for October is this portion of lung showing tuberculosis. This particular specimen comes from a person who had bilateral pulmonary tuberculosis for 15 years. On the specimen you can see that it has been deeply pigmented by carbon. This object is part of Knox collection.

Scapula

Scapula

This scapula, or shoulder blade, has been treated to remove the calcium, thereby rendering it partly translucent. The spine of the scapula is present across the top of the specimen and the glenoid cavity which articulates with the head of the upper arm bone (humerus) can be seen.

Carcinoma

Carcinoma

This specimen comes from a ship’s captain who was bitten by a shark when sailing the Persian Gulf. The bite severely lacerated part of his foot and ankle, but he survived the attack escaping only with some loss of movement due to ligament damage and a lot of scarring. The wound healed and there was little trouble for over thirty years at sea, until a growth appeared on the heel. A biopsy revealed it was a squamous carcinoma, a skin cancer, and the leg was amputated.

Heart with stenosis

Heart with stenosis

This specimen shows a section cut through the heart to show the diseased tricuspid, mitral and aortic valves. In valve disease the flaps of the valves become scarred and dysfunctional and this leads to restriction of the blood flow or blood leaking backwards in the heart.

Feathered head-dress

Feathered head-dress

This item is a feathered head-dress, part of a very decorative costume worn during ceremonies by a member of the Jivaro, or Shuar, a tribe of people who live on the Eastern slopes of the Andes in the rainforests of Ecuador and Peru. Wilburn H. Ferguson, an American surgeon, lived with them in the late 1940s and became a medicine man in his search for new cures and treatments using traditional medicines (or more specifically their active ingredients). He donated a variety of items to the museum, from spears to shrunken heads, many of which will be on display in our forthcoming exhibition, Medicine Men, opening 26th March.

Jivaro Head

Jivaro Head

The Object of the Month comes from our new exhibition, Medicine Men. It is a shrunken head, given to Wilburn Ferguson in the 1940s by a member of the Jivaro tribe from Ecuador, South America, after he was made a medicine man. The head is about the size of an orange, and the lips have been closed with palm fibre and bamboo sticks. Ferguson thought the ingredients used in the shrinking process could be the source of a potential cure for cancer.

Kayak

Kayak

Ship’s Surgeon William Purves traded with local Inuit for this model kayak while on a seal and whaling expedition in Labrador, Canada, in 1862. It is an exact replica of the type that would have been used in the area for transport, hunting and fishing. The kayak has a seal skin hull, stretched over a wooden frame with reindeer bone toggles. Even the carved wooden figure has a little stitched hide jacket!

Dissection of a Malefactor

Dissection of a Malefactor

Painted in 1709 by Dutch artist Adriaen van der Groes, this scene shows a body being dissected. The central figure is probably Scottish physician Archibald Pitcairne and the other characters are likely to be portraits of other medical men of the time. There are a variety of symbolic features in the painting that suggest it is also a ‘mememto mori’, a reminder of death, such as the hour glass resting on the body and death standing on the right hand pillar. This painting can be seen in one of the first cases when entering the History of Surgery Museum.

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