The Pathology Museum, a part of Queen Mary University of London, is the historic building and collection of pathological specimens built up over two centuries at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and Medical College. Today it is a medical-humanities hub and venue for public engagement as well as education – it is not an NHS institution. Our public events showcase research and the arts from our own organisation as well as other universities, independent researchers and other museums. Our activities are in accordance with Human Tissue Authority (HTA) regulations on public display of medical collections, and with Department of Culture, Media and Sport guidelines (DCMS).
The Pathology Museum is not a ‘usual’ museum. Although we are part of the London Museums of Health and Medicine group, our hours for public usage are restricted. Because the collection belongs to the medical school at Queen Mary, the space is often in use – by students – for teaching and examinations, which have priority. Because it is based at St Bartholomew’s Hospital campus, it is also frequently used by Barts staff for conferences relevant to their services. Therefore, we organise specific opening times for the public which do not clash with either of these usage agreements. They can usually be found on the Events page of our website and they can also be found on our Eventbrite site www.pathologymuseum.eventbrite.com .
The museum ceased to be a full time place of study many years ago when the medical school curriculum changed. The specimens are still used for teaching but not as regularly and so the university uses the space for many events. In order to preserve and maintain this interesting and historical collection, we must look at alternative ways to engage both students and the public with this unique resource. This may involve literature, history, popular culture and more. However, we are always open to discussions on this subject and if you would like to write to us explaining your views we would be happy to listen and take those views to our management meetings for comment.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Prior to the appointment of the current Technical Curator, the Pathology Museum was in a state of disarray. With the advent of medical imaging, such as CT and MRI, the need for the study of anatomy and pathology pots declined and so the pathology collection was an unutilised resource.
Without funding, the specimens and the infrastructure of the building suffered and it wasn't until five years ago that a donation was secured to renovate the collection which contains over 5000 anatomical specimens. Grant funding was provided by The Medical College of Saint Bartholomew's Hospital Trust, a registered charity that promotes and advances medical and dental education and research at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry.
Events were originally scheduled for after the completion of this project but the museum has opened slightly earlier than expected due to its physical arrangement (repaired specimens on the lower floor, yet to be repaired specimens on the upper floors). The conservation and cataloguing still continue and make up the bulk of the daily activity carried out by the museum’s Technical Curator.
Images of specimens of human tissue are subject to various legislation. Primarily they are the property of Queen Mary University and therefore subject to the university’s policies on copyright.
There are also several guidelines set out for maintaining dignity during the photography or videotaping of human specimens:
HTA Guidelines, specifically:
“Filming or photographing a donated body or body part in a medical school or surgical training centre”
Point 9 - We recognise the importance of images in education, and while the making and displaying of images (including photographs, films and electronic images) fall outside of the scope of the Human Tissue Act, and cannot be formally regulated, we expect establishments to take care not to compromise the dignity of the deceased, and to put systems in place to prevent the inappropriate use of images.
Point 10 - We consider it important to seek prior consent in respect of any filming, photography and use of such footage (including publication, live-streaming or subsequent broadcast). Ideally, consent should be sought from the donor before they die. If this has not happened, permission should be sought from family members or relatives. For human material that was already being held when the HTA Act came into force (existing holdings), we would advise that the guidance set out in the preceding paragraph is followed unless there are any factors in any documented consent that would preclude the making of images.
(That is, specimens over 100 years of age and ‘existing holdings’ do not require consent to be filmed or photographed, however dignity must be maintained and image usage is governed by the Designated Individual responsible for the institution’s licence. For essays on the intricacies of the terms ‘dignity’ see our funded research Drawing Parallels and this short article by the museum’s Technical Curator)
DCMS Guidelines, specifically:
“Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums – Public Display”
Point 2.7 - Some museums have taken the decision not to display human remains, or images of them, to the public. However, visitor surveys show that the vast majority of museum visitors are comfortable with and often expect to see human remains, usually skeletons, as parts of museum displays. There are many valid reasons for using them in displays: to educate medical practitioners, to educate people in science and history, to explain burial practices, to bring people into physical contact with past people, and to encourage reflection. Nevertheless, careful thought should be put into the reasons for, and circumstances of, the display of human remains.
The pathology museum staff are fully versed in these regulations and have a continued relationship with the HTA, DCMS and other regulatory bodies. They can therefore define what is ‘dignified’ and ‘not dignified’ when discussing images of human remains. We cannot guarantee the same of visitors who may not be familiar with the intricate regulations in place, specifically chosen location of particular specimens, or their identifying features.
Also, on Academia.edu please see the museum Technical Curator’s essay on the public display of human remains for historical information on the public vs the medical gaze of specimens. The essay received a distinction and was presented at the Royal Society of Medicine.
Other queries relating to directions, access, map etc. are on the About Us page of this website.