Whenever I need a fix of test-tube babies, salamander livers or amputated cystic penises…I take a trip down to the Hunterian Museum.
Named after pioneering scientific surgeon John Hunter, the museum is a weird and (occasionally) wonderful collection of human and animal anatomical specimens from the 18th Century onwards.
The majority of the artefacts are housed in clear glass containers, giving the gallery the feel of a mad scientist’s laboratory. There are some exhibits – the humbling skeleton of 7-foot 7-inch ‘Irish giant’ Charles Byrne for example – that are displayed in a more traditional manner. However, these pieces tend to be just as bizarre as the test-tube exhibits and therefore do nothing to dispel the disquieting yet fascinating atmosphere of the museum.
There are three exhibits that really stand out for me each time I visit: a quintuplet of human fetuses that look like aliens. A dead boy’s face rendered lifelike by an injection of red dye. And a dissected sparrow showing the enlargement of the testicles during mating season.
I’ve learnt a lot about the structure and function of living creatures from my visits to the museum and I’ve seen things that I never thought I would see. This strangely captivating space is both shocking and enlightening.
WARNING: The Hunterian Museum is closing for three years in May!