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Barts Pathology Museum

A museum housing over 5,000 medical specimens. They use the collection to explore a range of issues across medicine and medical humanities to the public through a programme of events and guided tours.

  • School/Institute/Department: Barts Pathology Museum, School of Medicine
  • Subjects: Pathology, Medical Humanities, Medicine
  • Audience:
  • Status: Past

Barts Pathology Museum houses over 5,000 medical specimens, representing a wide range of medical conditions through the ages. Based in St Bartholomews Hospital, they use the collection to explore a range of issues across medicine and medical humanities to the public through a programme of events and guided tours. 

By targeting peoples’ morbid fascination the museum explains serious diseases of the past and present, and the real lives these can affect, the range of samples bringing a reality to the subject. By exploring the lives behind the samples the museum also focuses on medical humanities, and serious social issues behind the medicine, such as depression. 

Linking their programme to modern culture and the rich history of the hospital, events and workshops tie medicine with popular culture, using reference points such as Sherlock Holmes or Alice in Wonderland to talk about mortuary technicians and mercury poisoning. 

To enhance visitors’ engagement, the museum’s team are interested in using technology to improve learning. Using smart phone technology and QR codes they are developing a project, partly funded by the Centre for Public Engagement, that will bring specimens to life through videos and graphics on visitors’ own phones. Further information on the displays will be unlocked in the form of engaging narratives more likely to stay in visitors’ minds. 

The space is also used to host subjects not naturally associated with pathology. They have featured film nights, drama workshops and ‘artistic encounters with pathology’ sessions that encourage participants to think about the specimens through drawing and other creative activities. 

Opened by the Prince of Wales in 1879, the museum has offered essential training to generations of medical students for over 100 years. Located in a Grade II-listed open plan space on three mezzanine levels, the museum homes a range of unique specimens, including the skull of John Bellingham, the only successful assassin of a British prime minister. 

Grant funding has been provided to Barts Pathology Museum 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.

To find out more about the museum, including information on history and public engagement activities visit their website.

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