By David South
Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine Newsletter (Toronto, Canada), Number 20, Spring, 1994
Being charged with setting up a high-calibre national medical museum isn’t easy in the best of times. The new Canadian Museum of Health and Medicine’s curator Felicity Pope wants things done right in these recessionary times.
Now housed at The Toronto Hospital (TTH), the museum’s collection was relocated in 1992 after severe water damage, and the unsure future of the Academy of Medicine, Toronto jeopardized the artifacts in their previous location.
Rather than having the valuable collection collect dust, a major project began to create Canada’s first national medical museum. With AMS/Hannah Institute, Academy of Medicine, Toronto and TTH support, Pope is making detailed plans to ensure the museum is an educational success.
“The project is to create a major medical museum in Canada,” says Pope, who is working out of the public relations office at TTH. “I’m in the midst of a planning study and haven’t unpacked the collection yet because the storage rooms aren’t ready. I’m doing a market and visitor analysis to project how many visitors will come to see the collection.”
“We have guiding principles for the museum. We will have a completely new vision and mandate from before, with a new research and exposition policy. With the museum’s name there come many expectations.”
Pope says the museum will need to fundraise from corporations to be viable. And the elaborate plans will help convince potential donors of the museum’s worthiness.
Artifacts also abound at the University of Western Ontario
Medical history students should consider a trip to the Department of History of Medicine at the University of Western Ontario to see another unique collection of artifacts and documents from Canada’s medical past.
Once located in London’s University Hospital, the artifacts are now technically on loan to the university. Hannah Professor Paul Potter recently assumed responsibility for the collection when University Hospital closed the museum.
“The collection has been created over the ages,” says Professor Potter. “The museum started at University Hospital when it was built in the early 1970s. Two rooms were set aside at the hospital for a medical museum – one room was a re-creation of a nineteenth-century doctor’s office with numerous instruments.”
The actual doctor’s office was packed off to the local pioneer village.
“We took the medical instruments and doctors’ ledgers. I took the things that were more interesting from a medical history perspective.”
And what’s there to see? For shock value there are the gruesome instruments of Victorian medicine – bloodletting knives and cups and surgical saws. Also on display is London’s first electro-cardiogram machine and microscopes dating back to the mid-1800s.
For Professor Potter, the collection livens up medical school lectures and provides a valuable research resource at the university.
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