New News!

In the last week two cool things have been confirmed:

I’m really excited about both of these and can’t wait to get stuck in.

The Volunteering


Inside the Hunterian Museum. Image taken from here.

About 2 years ago I started volunteering at in the museums department of the Royal College of Surgeons and enjoyed it so much that continued to work there until I started my PhD. Whilst there I was lucky enough to work with some amazing osteology collections and saw some interesting pathologies. I really enjoyed working there and was sad to leave, however, I knew I needed time to settle into my PhD.

A year on I have made the decision to return once a fortnight, so not to impact with my studies too much, to volunteer once again. I am so happy to be returning and to see some of the people I had met previously and can’t wait to get started. I am hoping to start this week, although I am waiting for confirmation, but already know what I will be working on – but I’ll wait until I’ve started to tell you all about it! It will be so lovely to go back, and a positive (and useful!) distraction from my PhD work.

Skeletons, Stories and Social Bodies

SSSB logo

The SSSB logo. Check the conference out here.

A fellow PhD student and friend of mine from Southampton (archaeosarah) and colleagues have set up a new conference called Skeletons, Stories and Social Bodies (SSSB) and I have offered to be a committee member. It will be an inter-disciplinary conference for discussing topics surrounding death, anatomy, attitudes to the body, mortuary practices, and more! This will be a joint conference by the Osteoarchaeology group (Department of Archaeology) and the Centre for Learning Anatomical Sciences (CLAS) at the University of Southampton.

Since volunteering at the Royal College of Surgeons I have become more and more interested in anatomy and therefore saw this as a great opportunity to learn more about the subject. Last year I helped out with the University of Southampton’s student conference, PGRAS, for the archaeology department. I therefore thought helping out with SSSB would be a great way to build on this experience.

Part of my role as a committee member will be to help with the general organisation of the conference and  to read submitted abstracts and proposals. In addition to this I have been asked to help out with promoting the SSSB on social media. This will certainly be a useful skill to develop as so much is carried out in this way now – plus it should help with my networking skills. I’m sure there’ll be lots of other things to help with and I’m definitely going to get stuck in – I may even run a workshop!

Please go and check out the conference and sign up to our mailing list for updates!



Twitter: @sssbconf or #sssbconf



Onto the Next Step….

Outside of the Royal College of Surgeons. Image taken from

Outside of the Royal College of Surgeons. Image taken from


I have just come back off a lovely 2 week holiday and I am now about to start the next chapter/step in my career and life. In one of  my last posts I said I will be starting a PhD at the Univeristy of Southampton looking to imporve the methods used for aging adult human skeletons from their dentition. In order to do this I have had to stop volunteering at the Royal College of Surgeons. This came to a natural end as I finished inventoring the last collection I worked with, which included neonatal dentition. I hope to return to the College in the future to volunteer once I’ve settled into the PhD but only if time allows.

I therefore wanted to write a thank you to the Museums Department for giving me the opportunity to work with some incredible human remains collections. It was great to be able to apply the knowledge I had gained at university to good use and I learnt so much. With the first two collections I worked with I was able to appreciate the extent of normal variation that can be observed in the human skeleton and increase my knowledge of neonatal pathology.

The third and final collection I worked with has provided me in good stead for the next step in my education and career. At the end of September I will be starting a PhD in dental morphology and inventorying the Stack collection of neonatal dentition has been a great help. Although my PhD will be using adult dentition to improve current age estimation methods for skeletal individuals having the knowledge base of neonatal dentition will, I’m sure, come in great use.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time volunteering for the museums department and I do hope to come back in the future. Not only has the collections I have worked with been incredible but so are the people. My time at the college would not have been nearly as good if the department wasn’t filled with such lovely, friendly and interesting people.

I will miss coming into the College once a week but I will definitely be going back – I’ve already booked myself onto two lunchtime lectures! So thank you again, it’s been an invaluable experience. 
Now on to the next chapter…

Week 40 at the Royal College of Surgeons

Outside of the Royal College of Surgeons. Image taken from

Outside of the Royal College of Surgeons. Image taken from

I had a shorter day at the College this week because last Saturday I was hit in the head with a hockey ball so at the moment I’m a little prone to small headaches. I had a very impressive black eye, which I’ve never had before, that has gone a wonderful shade of various colours! However, it looks a lot worse that in was, the most annoying thing was that I was hit about 5 minutes into the game. Anyway I had another good day at the College, black eye and all!

This week I carried on with the digitalisation of the cards associated with the collection I am working with at the moment. These cards are for each set of deciduous teeth that are in the collection and include information about the owner of the teeth. This is very sensitive data and some even have the pathologies that the individual had. I’m therefore learning even more medical terms and conditions which is very interesting, there are even a few that I have recognised from medial drama such as Grey’s Anatomy (I’m a late comer to the show but I’m totally hooked! Thankfully I have Amazon Prime and watch multiple episodes at a time).

Next week I might take a break from the cards and start on the teeth.  

Week 38 Volunteering at the Royal College of Surgeons

Outside of the Royal College of Surgeons. Image taken from

Outside of the Royal College of Surgeons. Image taken from

Today I went through the remaining documents for the collection I have been working on at the College. This meant recording the content of photographs and paper documents and then matching any relevant information relating to any specimens.

As with last week most of the photographs were of skulls with pathologies. However there are a few photos of some x-rays including one of an antenatal individual in uteruo.

When looking through the documents there were very interesting pieces. These included draft handwritten versions of writings by the original collector of the specimens. These writings focused on the condition anencephaly which many of the specimens had.

Finally there was also a CV of Trusty, the collector. This included a photocopy of his passport and a list of his academic and work experience. It was pretty cool being able to learn a little more about the man who made this amazing collection. He clearly had a great interest in development pathologies, particularly anencephaly, and shared his research in at least a few articles. 

I’ve been very lucky to work with such a great collection that is so delicate, interesting and amazingly preserved. I really hope that now we are sure what the collection consists of that it can be used for some form of research as it would be a shame if it sat in a storage room unused. 

Week 36 Volunteering at the Royal College of Surgeons

Outside of the Royal College of Surgeons. Image taken from

Outside of the Royal College of Surgeons. Image taken from

Today was a good day. I was expecting bad weather and feeling very stiff from returning to hockey training on Wednesdays but it’s only been a bit windy and I’m no where near as I thought!

When I got into the College this morning I bumped into Carina who told me that she had gotten the final skulls out from the Tlusty project I’ve been working on. I’m really pleased that I’ve managed to help in such a positive way and is been a great collection to work on. I think the plan now is to find another project for me to start on. I’m hoping that there’s some associated paperwork or documents with this project so I can learn more about the collection.

In addition to a few skulls I had to photograph there was also a small box containing lots of small plastic bags each with a pair of clavicles in them. At a guess I think there were about 40 pairs which makes a lot of tiny clavicles. They were so small and delicate but it had definitely improved my ability to side clavicles!
I’m looking forward to next week to see what the museum had for me to work on next!

Week 35 Volunteering at the Royal College of Suregons

Outside of the Royal College of Surgeons. Image taken from

Outside of the Royal College of Surgeons. Image taken from

So have a nice chilled out Christmas break I’m back at the college looking at more interesting specimens. As this is my forst week back, including my job at Reading University, I am still getting adjusted with actually having to work as having two weeks off at Christmas was great but as I did very little it’s taken me a few days to get back into the swing of things.

This week at the college I had quite a few skulls again with similar conditions to those I’ve examined in the last few weeks. However, I also had two partial skeletons and one complete skeleton. All three specimens had the same condition of iniencephaly, which I discussed in week 33. This condition is a result of a neural tube defect and therefore causes poor development of the skull, vertebrae and ribs. The two partial skeletons that I had only included these elements in addition to the pelvis so it was really interesting to compare them to a complete skeleton with the condition. It was clear to see that all of the other bones had developed as normal, although the scapulas were displaced as a result of the curvature of the spine. It was an extremely delicate but facinating specimen and I very much enjoyed working with it.

In addition to my work with the bones I was also shown a 3D-printed model of an infants skull. The conservation team had recieved some funding to help produce teaching models for the surgeons who use the Wellcome Museum of Anatomy and Pathology. One of the lecterures had requested to get an infant skull that they could handle as it would be very useful for teaching purposes. It was possible to provide them with real infant skulls as they are so delicate and easily damaged and therefore the idea came to try 3D printing. The model that was produced was amazing and fairly detailed – however, there was a slight problem with it being far too small. It means that it can’t be used for teaching as it is not accurate but it does give hope that this method could be used in the future.

Week 34 Volunteering at the Royal College of Surgeons

I was meant to post this a week ago but times got away with me given its Christmas and all! Any way here is my post about last week’s volunteering at the Royal College of Surgeons.

Today was my last day volunteering before I break for Christmas. I must admit finishing on a Thursday is really nice – not only does it make it a short week but I get to finish on my bone work. This makes me happy.

I had a few interesting specimens this week including a few with the condition I discussed last week, iniencephaly. These specimens are amazing to look at – particularly if you’re an anthropologist like me!

In addition to the skulls I had some legs to look at too. These were mounted in perspex boxes and were incredibly small. Half of these specimens appeared to be casts of the other legs which had been modeled to show the epiphyses and patellas. This was concluded after I realised that the pairs of bones had identical labels with the same information, including the original creators specimen numbers.

I’m him to enjoy my break now over Christmas and I’m very fortunate to have so much time off (the university where I work closes over Christmas!). In the mean time I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!


Christmas at the Royal College of Surgeons