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Recommended Reviews for Hunterian Museum
22 reviews in English
Review from Amy S.
There is an absolute shed loads of human and animal parts in jars at this museum!
Covering over 200 years of surgery, this museum goes into the techniques, instruments, and education aspects of surgery. There are loads of interesting specimens, from the 7.5 foot Irish Giant to the wooden knife students used to practice surgery on live patients.
Although this museum was extremely interesting, I recommend going before lunch, as there were a few times where I felt a little queasy. Good thing I'm not in the medical profession.
Apparently the collection is only 1/3 of what it was before WW2 because the original museum was bombed. It's such a shame because the current collection is very eclectic and has all sorts of interesting bits... I can't even imagine what the original collection was like!
If you're at all interested in anatomy and how great medical discoveries are made, check out this museum.
Review from Valerie S.
Fascinating. Intriguing. A bit disgusting. Alluring because you're not supposed to take photos.
Tucked away on Lincoln's Inn Fields, the Hunterian Museum is a brilliant anatomy museum recommended by my non-Londoner friend when she visited. We wiled away several hours among the glass vats, peering closely to read old printed labels and pulling back when we realized what *that* was.
It's sad, because I imagine the original museum was truly breathtaking, before the bombing (which you can read about when you visit the museum). Nonetheless, it's captivating and certainly extensive.
Highlights include the live videos of surgery, if you're feeling particularly brave, a full display of the development of the human fetus, and a nice gallery of interesting art featuring unique human anatomies and other pieces collected by Hunter.
It's peaceful too, and beautifully lit. Certainly the kind of place I would love to draw, if I were such a student of art. Nonetheless, I appreciate the entire idea, and would take anyone interested the next time I have visitors.
Review from SanioF B.
- 0 friends
Just spent the day at the Royal College of Surgeons for a seminar and popped into the Hunterian Museum. I hadn't been for years as I had mixed feelings over whether it really is an enlightening place or just a freak show. And the responses in these reviews, to the 'Irish Giant' in particular, kind of makes me think it is the latter.
Sure, the museum might be a great place if you want to have fun gawping at the deformed monsters. But the museum might be doing a better job if their displays provoked more thought and reflection.
Take the Irish Giant which, despite its apparently benign presence and the lack of proper acknowledgement, is not an apolitical display. It is contested check out this article here, one of many:
It's pretty much globally accepted that museums should not display human remains against the stated wishes of the individuals, or the families, or communities of those affected. It reeks of the dark days of the 'Hottentot Venus' (Sarah Baartman) and Truganini, the last Tasmanian Aborigine. Those displays were acknowledged as disrespectful colonialist legacies and taken down back in the 1970s a period not otherwise known for its PC values!
So it's pretty poor that a museum in London in 2013 should still refuse to remove Charles Byrne's skeleton from its gallery. Especially when that museum has just been awarded Designated Status by Arts Council England, with the remit to promote understanding of shared heritage and safeguard national treasures. Well, the Queen Mum was a national treasure, so should we roll out her bones? Or would that be disrespectful?
I won't rule out the possibility that the rest of the museum is an amazing mind-opener, but when you walk in and pride-of-place is given to the freakin' Irish Giant, it's hard to see beyond the ignorance that displays.
Review from Matt E.
The Hunterian Museum is either right up your alley or would be of no interest to you. Want to know which group you're in? Read the following paragraph.
The Hunterian Museum is two stories filled with jars containing various organs and samples from all types of species. This includes humans. Lots and lots of humans. Human pieces floating in jars.Also, there is a section that goes into great detail of how surgeries of all types have been conducted throughout the ages. Some look more like torture devices.
Fascinated? Get thee to Hunterian Museum. Grossed out? Don't say I didn't warn you!
As others have said, it's an incredibly clean and well organized space, thoroughly modern. They have done an excellent job in presenting all of their specimens. They are organized by body system. For example, you could compare the circulatory systems of a number of different species.
They have a small area of medical oddities, which will be of interest, and probably is responsible for a disproportionate percentage of the museum's traffic. The skeleton of some "Irish Giant" is prominently displayed. Maybe he was a bigger deal on this side of the pond.
If this type of museum is at all your cup of tea, you'll be glad you visited Hunterian.
Review from Olivia E.
The moment I entered this museum I was like a kid in candy shop.
I know, it sounds gross but this is the most beautiful place I have ever been to -ever! I love zombies (tee-hee), I love taxidermy, craniums so... you get the idea. Since childhood I have been fascinated about preserving animals/humans (my granddad was a hunter so we used to have loads of stuffed animals in the house).
The Hunterian Museum represents the collection of John Hunter , he basically started this museum. But obviously, since then, the collection has been supplemented by others including an Odontological Collection and the natural history collections of Richard Owen.
The collection consists of actual human body parts, animals, bones, craniums, loads of human foetus and deformed vertebrae, frogs, mice everything you can imagine.
I think at one point this guy got sooo involved in what he was doing that it didnt matter anymore if the body parts had any medical reference, he would just cut- dissect- and display.
Everything is categorised and shown in a healthy and an unhealthy state.
But it is scary to see how from a simple tooth ache people would die or from a splinter the whole freaking leg had to be cut off because of gangrene.
But at the same time I love how this museum takes you through the evolution of the medical system- how the number of deaths dropped drastically when they discovered antibiotics and how it shows you these "neanderthal" medical tools that would butcher you then this fancy robot that can stitch the finest of veins. We've come a loooooong way, i tell you that.
What i don't like is the fact that they still have the "Irish Giant" (8ft body) on display.
Mr. Irish Giant was snatched by Hunter against his dying wish...for about £130, I think. To be honest I really don't like this guy anymore, especially for not respecting a dying man's wish...and for the dead kittens he put on display.
Anyway, this museum is not for everybody. My boyfriend felt sick and had to go to the toilet several times- he still refuses to believe it was from the jars.
The Hunterian Museum is located on the first floor of the RCS (entrance via Lincoln's Inn Fields). The nearest tube stations are Holborn and Chancery Lane. They are open Tuesday - Saturday, 10am - 5pm. They do a guided tour every Wednesday at 1pm .
"The tour is open to everyone but places are limited to 25 people and advance booking is recommended - this tour is open to individuals and small groups up to a maximum of 5 people. Call 020 7869 6560 to reserve places."
And the best part is that this whole museum is free!!!
Review from Sheila P.
- 1575 friends
The Hunterian Museum is a quirky little museum and may not be for everybody. If innards of animals and humans preserved in jars make you queasy - then I'd say stay away. If you are interested in science or the history of medicine, then this is the place for you!
It houses the Irish Giant's skeleton and many other creatures in formaldehyde. This museum could take up to 2hrs to go through
The Hunterian Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm.
Admission is free and there is also a free curator led walking tour.
Review from Whitney N.
- 39 friends
The focus of this museum is primarily science-based, with their main emphasis on the aspects of both human and animal form - they have one of the largest human anatomy collections in the UK.
This translates into plenty of human tissues - everything from layers of skin to fully formed fetuses - floating around in formaldehyde on display in glass jars. This also means that the very idea of visiting Hunterian's niche exhibits grosses most people out simply by reading their descriptions.
However, if you have any interest in the human body, or biology, or are merely a non-squeamish individual who is curious and wants a different sort of day out learning about something rather unique and intriguing - the Hunterian is recommended.
I should make it perfectly clear that this isn't some tacky wax museum or freakish Ripley's Believe it or Not... everything here is very tastefully presented. The exhibition halls were recently refurbished - it took them two years from start to finish - and you can tell. The space is beautifully laid-out and the specimens aren't remotely garish. The vibe is sort of Victorian/romantic/scientific. To merely say that human tissues are displayed in glass jars really doesn't give you the full effect - it's more like some kind of art installation - there seems to be that level of respect for what's on display. With each piece, even the fetuses, you can read the story behind them - making them more real and human.
This is a true educational experience (though I would say, not a kid-friendly one). It's amazing what you can learn from looking at tissues and bones... that you can tell a human's origin by looking at their skull... or how this or that organ functions... the wealth of information here seems endless. And it's guaranteed that you will leave with more appreciation for the body and human form.
Review from Qype User (Marshy…)
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- Qype User Marshy…
One of two really good reasons to visit Lincolns Inn Fields (the other being John Soanes place)
This collection of scientific goodies is truly a sight to behold and will interest anyone with a passing fancy in medical history, animals or dissection!
It is pretty gruesome at times but what a collection of unusual artefacts!
Others here have said plenty about the kind of thing on offer and it is true its a real hidden gem of unusualness
Review from Qype User (Berr…)
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- Qype User Berr…
Absolutely not for the faint hearted, this museum is part of the Royal College of Surgeons and reveals a grisly past of body-snatching and slicing. Initially I found the collection of dissected creatures fascinating. But when I saw the series of reptiles killed as they were hatching from their eggs, showing each stage with a dead baby reptile, I got a bit upset. The skeleton of a man with gigantism accompanied by the story of how his body was taken for exhibit against his dying wishes was a bit much. Then I saw something so horrific and upsetting that I started shaking and had to sit in the recovery position in shock for some time.
People who liked Bodyworks might be able to cope. However, there are dead babies and bits of children in here, so it can be very distressing. Admission is free and there are talks and tours too.
Review from Qype User (astrid…)
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- Qype User astrid…
Entering in the rather austere and beautiful main door of the Royal College of Surgeons, I tried my best to look like I was meant to be there, and asked at the front desk for the Hunterian Museum. The nice fellow handed us three visitors' badges and directed us through the gate.
John Hunter: collector of anatomical freaks. Recently, the Hunterian was featured on Channel 4's series Genius of Britain, and Lord Professor Robert Winston specifically drew our attention to the 7'7 Irish Giant skeleton, which Hunter bought £130.
But this is not all there is the the museum. In a relatively small space, the Hunterian is crammed full of general guides to anatomy (the Evelyn tables were our favourites), anatomical anomalies (such as the Irish Giant), remains ravaged by diseases (bones pocked and worn by syphilis, a skull swollen by hydrocephalus) and plenty of things in formaldehyde. There was also a huge collection of surgical tools (old and new) and videos of various surgeries (some which I was engrossed by, some which I was grossed out by).
The Hunterian Museum is located on the first floor of the RCS (entrance via Lincoln's Inn Fields). The nearest tube stations are Holborn and Chancery Lane. They are open Tuesday Saturday, 10am 5pm. They do a guided tour every Wednesday at 1pm. And what's more: it's completely free!
Review from Jessica H.
- 1 friend
One of the most visually stunning places in London, though not for the squeamish as the collection is absolutely unflinching. As a painter with a slight obsession with medical imagery and history, this place is like coming home.
Amazingly, the museum is built around the collection and research of one man - John Hunter - a Scottish anatomist whose attitude toward the study of the human body often clashed with the popular attitude of 18th century England. For instance, many of his specimens were obtained illegally as scientific study of the dead remained taboo. (In one of the more upsetting cases, he originally approached Charles Byrne, the Irish Giant, when he was alive and asked permission to study him after his death. Byrne was appalled and made arrangements to be buried at sea in a secure coffin. Money was exchanged post-mortem, however, and you can see his skeleton on display here.) There are many preserved human and animal parts, as Hunter was interested above all in mapping the mystery of nature via dissection.
This is an amazing collection of Hunter's life's work and the people who are associated with the museum are as enthusiastic about it as Hunter was. I've been approached by a lecturers when wandering around as they often give little free talks about specialist subjects.
And all this strange historic wonder for free. *swoon*
Review from Ben C.
- 21 friends
Beautifully displayed, this scientific depository - including macabre curiosities and important surgical advances - maps the journey from those early days of surgery with it limited knowledge and insight to our current life altering knowledge of the human body. The collection is amazing - set in the Royal College of Surgeons - this museum and the history of the RCS are fundamental to the life saving surgeries that perhaps we take for granted but have huge impact on our quality of life.
The array of dissected, formaldehyde soaked animal and human parts is fascinating. The progressive collections of surgical equipment and their uses only goes to reinforce the gratitude for all the endeavours this museum represents. There is much to marvel at and the odd section to feel a little uneasy with.
As a footnote I felt rather humbled as we left and the two older gentlemen on the museums reception - explained - when asked by a young lady that they were both volunteers and both retired surgeons.
Review from Janet H.
- 8 friends
Free!! It is a little museum situated in the College of Surgeons - there are a lot of pathology pots, people might find it confronting but if you want to feel like what's like to be a medical student this is the place for you to go and enjoy part of the medical science, there are a lot of interesting historical surgical instruments both from past and present on display as well
Review from Nicole R.
Incredibly cool museum! If you're into anatomy, biology and medicine you'll find this place very fascinating, although even if you aren't you'll likely love all the specimens they have on display. Definitely not for the faint-hearted as there are some pretty gruesome bits. Almost everything I'd like to say is covered by others so in order to not sound redundant I'd just say it's probably one of the interesting and unique museums in Museum Mile.
Review from Qype User (benhar…)
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- Qype User benhar…
Interesting collection hidden off Lincoln inn fields, and was virtually empty on a Saturday morning. My partner is in the medical profession so found it v. Informative, but enough to keep the non medical ones amongst us entertained for an hour! Free and easy to find
Review from Qype User (filimb…)
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- Qype User filimb…
Wandering round the vast public space that is Lincoln's Inn fields, you would not suspect that this place exists. John Hunter was one of those mad guys who just decide off their own bats to change the way things are done, and basically created modern medicine and biology with his comprehensive dissections and compulsive collecting.
This collection has to be seen to be believed, and should appeal to all the goth kids out there. There are dead people, dead babies, brains, skulls, heads, jaws, teeth eyes, every animal you've ever heard of cut into pieces, baby animals, foetuses, all pleasantly pickled in lethal solutions that would probably kill you if you so much as sniffed them.
I don't think this is going to appeal to everyone, but if you've ever wondered through a freak show at a waxworks, or you like gruesome horror movies, or you're thinking of becoming a serial killer, and you don't quite know what to expect, then this is for you.
Review from Richard D.
Review from Qype User (Hannyp…)
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- Qype User Hannyp…
The Hunterian is fascinating, awe-inspiring and truly gruesome. Spread over two floors are medical curiosities, stories about early surgical procedures and countless specimens of animal, bird and fish. Babies, foetuses and human body parts are also categorised and shown in healthy and unhealthy states. The museum is arranged so that even those unfamiliar with surgery like me! - are able to engage and it is absolutely captivating. Some of the portraits at the bottom of the ground floor describe the lives of freaks and along with the Irish Giant who's 8ft body, on display, was snatched by Hunter against his dying wish cause you to pause for thought, but despite it being a little hard to stomach at times, it really makes your heart race and your mind whirr!
Review from Lorraine W.
- 1 friend
Located on the first floor of the Royal College of Surgeons is the Hunterain museum a fascinating, if not somewhat bizarre, collection of human body parts, bones and dead aminals probably not for the faint hearted as some of the displays are a little gruesome. It makes you realise just how far modern medicine has come, and without the research shown in the specimens on display it may not have got to where it is today.
Review from N W.
- 0 friends
This is a must for anyone interested in biology or health. They had several thousands of specimen of different creatures, including human. Many of the specimen on display were some kind of organ of a creature affected by a disease. I especially liked the different human skeletons, including foetal skeletons. Also appreciated seeing the different instruments used through the last 200 or so years for surgeries.
This museum is not for the faint hearted. If you are interested in looking at the organic speciment, then reserve at least three hours.
My only criticisms: being a museum mainly for adults, there should be more explanation about things, as not all of us have medical backgrounds. For instance, showing a human liver affected by some disease only makes sense if one knows what a healthy human liver should look like, and ideally see them side by side. Similar thing for the skulls: i would like to know how they estimate the sex, age and race of the human skull and see it under the skulls themselves.
Review from Qype User (aless0…)
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- Qype User aless0…
The Hunterian Museum is an absolutely brilliant collection of 1000s of specimans - ranging from whole animal fetuses to organs with tumors, insects, birds, dissected brains, etcetc. It fascinating for both the scientist and the layman. There are examples of what a hernia looks like, cancer, genetic mutations, heart disease, tuberculosis - you name it. Arranged as a sort-of tribute to medical history (there are exhibits about plastic surgery in the 1800s and surgical instruments from the past), most of the specimans were collected over 100-200 years ago, making the collection even more remarkable. It's a brilliant place for kids, adults, tourists and locals. I can't believe I'd never been before now! Set out over two floors and with thousands of jars, bones, skeletons and signs to look at, the Hunterian Museum provides both an educational and entertaining afternoon.
Review from Justine L.
- 4 friends
San Diego, USA
I visited England in January for about a week and my bf's friend told me about this place and I decided we had to go. We managed to get there about 15 minutes before it closed on a Saturday, but still were able to do a quick walkthrough of both stories of the museum. I found the entire place fascinating and could probably spend all day there. My bf, was a little disturbed by some of the exhibits so I'm not sure he enjoyed it as much. If I ever make it back to London, I will definitely be visiting the Hunterian again.