The New Plan – Weekly Updates!

So I’ve been a bit rubbish with my blog (again!) but Ive told myself that I am going to be better from now on. I guess I haven’t written much as I haven’t felt that there’s much to say. HOWEVER, I am now back volunteering at the Royal College of Surgeons and I’m going to start visiting museums to access their collections for my PhD work. That means there should be plenty to talk about so I have no excuse for not keeping up with the blog!
So first things first, I’m back at the Royal College of Surgeons volunteering. It’s been about a year since I was last here but I couldn’t help but come back! I enjoyed working here so much and the people are lovely so I was just waiting for the right time.
Now I’m back I’m doing something slightly different then previously, where I was tasked with creating inventories for a couple of collections. This time I’m packing objects/human remains ready for decanting and moving them to a new site. This is because the building in which the museums department is based is getting renovated and so most of the collections have to be moved off site. So far the boxes of remains I have been working on have been straight forward. This has included sorting a couple of boxes of loose ribs and one half (a complete right side) of a skeleton. I’m having to think about how best to wrap and pack each box so that the bones are safe and secure, ready to be moved. As I said the boxes so far have been relatively simple to sort out, but I’m sure there are going to be some tricky ones coming my way!
So that’s my volunteering stuff, now for a quick update about my PhD. I’m now at the stage where I am contacting museums in search of human remains that would be suitable for my project. At times this has been fairly straightforward. I’ve identified a collection, either from some literature or an online resource, then contacted the museum and have been able to find exactly what I am looking for. On other occasions it’s been a little more complicated. For example, I may have found the original excavation report that identifies a collection but it is then difficult to locate the remains. In these situations I have contacted the most likely institutions or commercial archaeological company and went from there. It’s taken a little bit of time but I now feel that I have identified a good amount of skeletal collections, at least as a starting point.
So what’s next? Well I’m visiting the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff and Cirencester museum over the next 2 weeks. Here I ¬†hoping to have a preliminary look at the remains that they have to see how suitable they are for my project. I will (hopefully!) arrange another date to go back and measure any of the remains that can be used in my research. In the mean time I’m going to start contacting the museums that have collections that are appropriate for my work and get some dates for visits in the diary. My aim is to see and measure as many skeletons as possible before April next year, when my PhD upgrade will be. So lots of work to do but I can’t wait to get started with the data collection!
As I said before, now that I’ll be visiting new places and collections, plus the volunteering, I should be able to write an update of my progress and experiences every week! Here’s hoping!¬†Skeleton-Hands-Facebook-Cover

Trip to the Wellcome Museum and Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons

I’ve decided to change my ‘what I’ve been up’ pages to posts – I think it’ll just look better!

Anyways on 13th Feb 2014 I went to the Hunterian Museum based at the Royal College of Surgeons as I had a meeting with the curator of the Wellcome museum of pathology and anatomy which is based there. Before Christmas I got in contact with Carina Philips, the curator, to get her opinion about getting work in a museum. Then in January I got a reply from her giving me some advice but also a chance to come and discuss a volunteering opportunity working with an ostological project – this was music to my ears! So I headed into London to meet Carina.

Whilst there we talked about the usual things – what my background is, what the project will involve and why it is needed. Basically the museum is receiving human remains before the Human Tissue Act comes into place in 2016, which will require more people and organisations to obtain the license. However the museum now has boxes of human bones which need to be sorted and catalogued so they know what they are dealing with. Hopefully, I will be helping out with this, depending on a couple of things. I’m very much looking forward to getting the chance to handle human bones again if it all pans out!

After my meeting I visited the Hunterian Museum. Now if you’re interested in human osteology, pathology or medical history I definitely recommend visiting! It’s not in the most touristy areas of London but it’s only a couple of streets over from Fleet street and about a 20 minute walk from Waterloo. There were some incredible specimens including human bones with extensive infections including osteomyelitis, syphilis and spines bent with tuberculosis. One specimen which will stick with me is the huge osteoma (benign bone tumour) which was present on the lower leg of a man. His leg was amputated and the specimen remains in the museum’s collection it is very impressive and HUGE – it weighed 42lbs/19kg! I couldn’t imagine trying to carry that around with me.

Along with the incredible specimens there were also exhibitions explaining the history of medicine and surgery. Some of the equipment and tools used in the past were vicious! There was a particular exhibition on at the moment looking at plastic surgery in WWI, particularly disfigurement of the face through bomb explosions. Although some of the techniques and instruments used looked pretty scary it did change the lives of many and was the start of great, innovative surgery.

I could go on and on about what I saw at the museum but I really suggest visiting for yourself. There was also no photography allowed in the museum so you’ll have to go and visit yourself to see all the awesome specimens!

London on a sunny, windy day. taken on my way back from the Hunterian Museum

London on a sunny, windy day. taken on my way back from the Hunterian Museum