2020: A Year In Review

As we prepare to say goodbye to 2020 we thought we would keep up the tradition of looking back at the year with our “Year in Review” blog. 2020 has been a year like none of us have ever experienced before and we have been very fortunate to have a great team here at Surgeons’ Hall Museums to help navigate through these strange and difficult times.

In January our Senior Research Fellow, Professor Ken Donaldson, delivered the really interesting “Puzzle of Blacking Lungs in Victorian Britain” talk. The talk explored how George Pearson discovered that people’s lungs turned black as they got older due to soot (from burning coal) being inhaled into the lungs.

In February we were very excited to welcome back Calum and his Cool Creatures. Once again attendees had a great time meeting all the weird and wonderful animals Calum brought along. A few weeks later our Curator, Louise Wilkie, delivered a great talk looking at the real-life medical detectives that inspired Sherlock Holmes.

Pong the skunk

At the beginning of March we held what was to be our last live event for the foreseeable future. We were delighted to welcome leading transplant Surgeon Professor Lorna Marson MD, FRCS, FRCP to join us for International Women’s Day. Professor Marson reflected on the history of women in surgery while sharing stories from her experience as a surgeon as well as discussing gender roles within the current field.

On the 18th of March we closed our doors and didn’t reopen again until the Scottish Government deemed it safe to do so on the 15th of July.

Before we closed we had some time to film a series of short videos looking at certain items in our collection which allowed us to bring the museum to our visitors at a time when our visitors couldn’t come to the museum.  We also put together a series of quizzes to help with home schooling as well as some quizzes for adults to do.

One of our “Tales from Surgeons’ Hall” videos

In July we took our first foray into the world of digital events with “Immortal Remains: A History of Preserving the Human Body”. This was a 3-week course delivered by our Human Remains Conservator, Cat Irving, which looked at various ways people have preserved human remains through history. The course proved incredibly popular and we ended up repeating it several times.

Before we reopened we  had to make several changes to the way the museum operated to make the museum a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. This included introducing an online reservation system. We also started our “Blood and Guts: The Twists and Turns of Edinburgh’s Medical History” walking tours back up. Again, we had to look at the way these ran to ensure we were adhering to government guidelines.

We also decided to move our full events programme online. We started a new talk series called “Surgeons’ Hall Museums On  Demand”. This is a series of pre-recorded lectures that are available to view for one week. Our Learning Officer, Carl Ronan, ran a couple of online workshops in October which proved popular. We also got the opportunity to host Forensic Artist, Karen Fleming, who gave a lecture on facial reconstruction. Karen had originally been booked to lead forensic art workshops in April, but these had to be cancelled due to COVID-19.

We had planned on opening a new temporary exhibition “A Model Education” in April, however this has been pushed back to 2021. This exhibition will explore the intimate relationship of art and anatomy and how they have combined to teach anatomy throughout the centuries. Bringing together five anatomical teaching collections from across the UK, we will showcase the ever-changing teaching aids used to supplement dissection and the artistic talent found in their creation.

Unfortunately, our new Body Voyager galleries have also been delayed due to the pandemic. However, we are incredibly excited to push ahead with the project and launch the galleries in 2021. In April we introduced Inês-Hermione Mulford as Project Artist for Body Voyager. Inês is a realist painter and has been hard at work creating some fantastic artwork for the new galleries.

Created by Inês-Hermione Mulford for Body Voyager

While 2020 hasn’t gone the way anyone had hoped, we are looking forward to seeing what 2021 has in store for us.

We would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone that has supported us through these strange and trying times, we couldn’t have done it without all of you! Hopefully we will get the opportunity to welcome you to the museum in 2021.

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