Museum of London opens Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men

Museum of London presents Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men, an exhibition on view 19 October 2012 – 14 April 2013.

The Superficial Muscles of the Thorax and the Axilla 1876.® Wellcome Library.

In 2006, archaeologists from the Museum of London 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. –