Hunterian Museum review
This is one museum that I've never bothered with before, but I actually found it quite interesting. I'm not sure that I'd recommend it to tourists, though. It's more for medical students, I think, and for local Londoners who have seen all of the obvious attractions, and are searching around for something a bit different.
It's basically a big collection of human bones and sliced-up animals. They pickle up bodies and stick them in a jar. They've dissected birds and bees (literally — even bees!) and slit open their throats and stomachs, so you can see all of their muscles and blood and bones. Some of them are truly gruesome. They have glass jars with hairless rodents and a foetal pig. They have bottles on show with severed heads in them (bird's heads) -- they've simply sliced through the throat and pickled it. They have a chimp's head too -- just his head in a bottle, complete with his fur. The museum is housed inside the Royal College of Surgeons, you see, so it's all about the anatomy. It's there for the students. And people who like horror movies.
The worst ones are the pickled humans. You might think that I'm joking, but I'm not — they have actually taken some unborn babies and pickled them throughout every stage of development. You can follow them along from conception to birth, watching their faces forming onto blobby heads, then their arms and legs stretching and bending into limbs, and finally into a fully formed stillbirth that didn't quite make it. (I don't recommend this museum for kids!). If that doesn't tickle your fancy, then how about their huge collection of tumours?
What makes the museum most interesting for the casual visitor are all the freaks and weird ones. They have skeletons of deformed humans, and a giant Irish circus showman. One poor guy seemed to have a skull the same size as a beachball. They even have the skull of Winnie the Pooh. I'm being serious! There used to be a brown bear in London Zoo that inspired A. A. Milne to write his children's tale. Well... you can see the bones of his severed head at the Hunterian Museum (I don't remember that being in his bedtime book).
I see this place as a sister to the Natural History Museum, because that place displays the animals with their clothes on (with their feathers and fur), whilst the Hunterian strips off their skin and shows you their blood vessels and bones.
I also think it's worth a visit just to have nose around the building itself (the Royal College of Surgeons). You have to pick up a security pass to get through the barriers, and then you walk up some very grand stairs lined with paintings of talented docs.
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