Make The Incision

The Royal College of Surgeons Hunterian Collection is open to the public and is a fantastic way of freaking yourself out, so where better to meet friends? Recently refurbished, it consists of several galleries, devoted to the body, instruments, diseases, oddities etc. I went along in February with my buddies Robin and Gren, as a way of actually spending some time with them. Gren brought along his son Art, which was a nice extra.

The first thing you see when you enter the museum is something that looks like a prop in a Clive Barker movie. It is the nervous system of a human, stuck to a wooden board. I was careful not to cut myself and drip blood on it, lest it start to regenerate and come back to life. And that was just the start. There’s too much to describe in full here, but a few
highlights were:

The drawers of medical instruments, each drawer labelled with the area of the body associated with it. As you opened each drawer, you generally had a sharp intake as you saw the various instruments. We opened one drawer marked ‘Female Genito-urinary’ (or something) and that was pretty gruesome, but you could see what they would do. Then we opened the
drawer marked ‘Male Genito-urinary’, and we (and the guys standing nearby) all had to close it quickly and walk gingerly away. You couldn’t imagine what the 18″ rod with the little claws on the end was for – until you saw the 18th-century ‘cartoon’ on the wall behind you, depicting an operation to crunch up and remove a gallstone via the male urethra, without anaesthetic. That’ll get you drinking enough water.

I was disappointed there was no drawer of ‘Instruments for Operating on Mutant Women‘, but then it’s probably best they don’t exist anywhere apart from the imagination of David Cronenberg.

Art was quite taken with the row of jars, each containing a foetus at a different stage of development, about 15 jars in all, on the bottom shelf, at toddler’s-eye level. It was an interesting sight to see Art standing, palms on the glass, face to face with a 9-month-old foetus.

Then we went for a sandwich.