Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men
19th October 2012 – 14th April 2013
In 2006, archaeologists from Museum of London Archaeology excavated a burial ground at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. What they found was both extraordinary and unexpected.
The excavation revealed some 262 burials. In the confusing mix of bones was extensive evidence of dissection, autopsy, amputation, bones wired for teaching, and animals dissected for comparative anatomy. Dating from a key period – that of the Anatomy Act of 1832 – the discovery is one of the most significant in the UK, offering fresh insight into early 19th century dissection and the trade in dead bodies. Passed amid deep public fear following a notorious case of murder for dissection, this fiercely-debated Act gave the State the right to take ‘unclaimed’ bodies without consent, and remained almost entirely unchanged until the Human Tissue Act of 2004.
Now, 180 years later, you can uncover this intriguing story in Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men, a major new exhibition at the Museum of London. Bringing together human and animal remains, exquisite anatomical models and drawings, documents and original artefacts, the exhibition will reveal the intimate relationship between surgeons pushing forward anatomical study and the ‘Resurrection men’ who supplied them; and the shadowy practices prompted by a growing demand for corpses.
You’ll discover the story of Bishop, Williams and May – London’s Burke and Hare – and find out how the excavation findings shed new light on the case of an alleged resurrectionist, who died in prison while his wife protested his innocence. You’ll also pore over unrivalled evidence of surgery and amputation – before anaesthetic – and of dissection, anatomical teaching and students practising their craft. As the exhibition draws to a close, you’ll be encouraged to debate the Anatomy Act, reflect on medical ethics and cultural attitudes today, and ask what questions still remain in 2012.
It may leave you asking: who really owns your body?
Ticket prices are adult £9.00, Concession/child (aged 12+) £7.00, Friends of the Museum FREE and Art Fund members £4.50.
Flexible family tickets are available at the information desk or on 020 7001 9844, and Groups of 10 or more people receive a 20% discount when booked in advance. Entry is FREE for secondary schools and FE/HE groups when booked in advance.
You can book tickets online here (timed entry and a £1 booking fee per ticket apply).
Due to its subject matter, Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men is not recommended for children under 12. Please note this exhibition features human skeletal remains.