Saturday, 22 March 2014

Cabinet of Curiosity

From the Curator of Museum Services at the University of Dundee :

The latest exhibition in the Lamb Gallery in the University’s Tower Building features highlights from an outstanding medical collection. 

Based at Ninewells Hospital & Medical School, the Tayside Medical History Museum has one of the finest collections in Scotland, including material from Dundee Royal Infirmary, Royal Dundee Liff Hospital, Ninewells Hospital and Sunnyside Hospital among others. The museum opened in 1989 but is currently closed for redevelopment as part of the on-going refurbishment of the School of Medicine. We intend to create a new version of the museum outside the Gannochy lecture theatre at Ninewells, but in meantime, we’re taking the opportunity to get some of the museum’s fascinating material out on show for a wider audience.

Dundee’s more recent medical heroes (such as Sir Alfred Cuschieri and Sir James Black) are well-known, as is the city’s leading role in cancer and diabetes research. The collections on show in this exhibition reveal a much longer history of medical breakthroughs and pioneering treatment. For example, Dundee’s first dedicated cancer research centre was founded as long ago as 1906 thanks to funding from Sir James Caird, with Dr Archibald Leitch appointed as the city’s first cancer specialist.

Other stories include Dundee’s pioneering role in x-ray experiments, which began within months of their discovery in Germany. At Dundee Royal Infirmary, Dr George Pirie undertook numerous experiments, repeatedly x-raying his own hands unaware of the dangers. A bottle of mustard oil featured in the exhibition was used by Pirie to rub on his hands to soothe the pain, but eventually both hands had to be amputated. 

More recently, the exhibition also highlights the ground-breaking research of Dr James Riley, whose work in Dundee demonstrated that the mast cell granule was the major source of histamine in the body, revolutionising the understanding of inflammatory and allergic reactions. Riley's research made him an internationally respected authority, and his original lab equipment is included in the exhibition.

As well as stories of breakthrough discoveries, the exhibition features a wealth of everyday objects from local hospitals and pharmacists, from a 1960s nurse's uniform to an Edwardian necklace that supposedly cured asthma.

The exhibition will be on show until 20th May, Monday to Friday 09.30-20.30 and Saturday 09.30-16.30. Click here to find out more about the Tayside Medical History Museum and its collections.