Thursday, 29 October 2015

Hunterian Museum

For those of you fascinated by all things morbid and macabre, you'll love this bizarre little chamber of horrors neatly tucked away inside The Royal College of Surgeons in central London.
The Hunterian Museum, which is completely free and just spitting distance from Holborn station, boasts all kind of specimens and oddities, human and animal.
Founded by John Hunter, an eighteenth century surgeon, vet and dentist, this collection was the biggest of its kind in Europe during his lifetime.
It is refreshing to realise that in this era of desensitivity we can still occassionally find ourselves confronted by something that shocks us profoundly.
On two floors and containing over 14,000 specimens, including diseased organs and an extensive collection of human fetuses, as well as video displays of real life surgery, The Hunterian Museum is certainly not for the faint of heart.
Some particular highlights include a cockerel with a spur successfully transplanted to its comb, a prosthetic face worn by a man who had lost his own in a mining accident and a highly controversial addition; the skeleton of Charles "The Irish Giant" Bryne who had actually longed to be buried at sea. There is also a small section of paintings depicting seriously un-PC "human oddities" as their subject matter, such as a piebald slavegirl and several prominent dwarves, as well as Native Americans and other indigenous peoples.
Hunter had a thirst for knowledge and a passion for the beauty found in anatomy, both human and animal. Preserving most of the specimens himself, his goal first and foremost was to educate. He was one of the most distinguished scientists of his day and through him we have achieved a better understanding of many things including human teeth, bone growth and venereal diseases.
The Hunterian Museum is a unique experience because it is so raw, so real; we are confronted by the grizzly nature of our own mortality in such an uncompromising fashion that we are rendered speechless - a rare feat indeed.
It's not for the squeamish, but if you can handle it then forget Ripley's Believe It Or Not (at up to £27 per ticket!) with its waxwork dummies and cheap thrills; go and experience the real deal!
Highly Recommended.