Museum of Human Disease Day

    The Museum of Human Disease was really fun little excursion, it really was a very interesting and informative day.  Everyone had a great time, as usual it was only a small group.  But this made it more personal and relaxing.

    After visiting this museum and chatting to the staff I might tie in more events along these lines.  I'll certainly be visiting between classes when uni starts.

    I should first say a thank you to the staff.  They were excellent, everyone I have spoken with has been friendly and happy to answer any questions or to just chat.  In all honesty the people here are great, very approachable.  If anyone is interested in the educational side of medicine then this is the best place to start.

    When we arrived at the museum they were already giving a little talk to a school group.  It had only just started so we joined in, the talk was obviously more for children the way it explained how they would be seeing human organs and that this could be confronting.  Not something undertakers or I would worry about.
The entry to the museum is easy to miss, with no signs outside.
    The presentation was actually quite fun, she kept asking the students typical fun questions like what was a cause of cirrhoses of the liver.  We all got in the swing of it, it was a fairly amusing and fun presentation.

    After this was over we signed in at the reception desk, where one of the staff recognised me.  She took us straight through to the lab at the back so we could meet the person in charge of maintaining the specimens and have a 'behind the scenes' style of talk.  He was quite friendly, we talked for a good two hours about so many things, from the funeral industry to funny medical stories.

Inside the lab.
Also inside the lab.
    He even showed us various tools and explained the procedures to us; like the difference in solutions used for various reasons, how specimens can look, how the 'pots' are sealed, and more.  One of the more interesting things is that he essentially taught himself how to embalm.  That he and his boss learnt on their own, there were a few mistakes at first but they worked it out pretty fast.

    It was also interesting how the details and records of a few specimens were lost or never taken.  In the past things were a bit more 'relaxed' in a sense.  Some specimens were just taken as they were cool, and no records were kept.

    One good example was of a face in the lab (not accessible to the public), nobody knows who's face it is and it would be impossible to find out.  All they know is that it was an off-cut from an anatomy dissection that someone decided to preserve.

A big foam skeleton that went
together like a jigsaw!
    The museum is divided into sections with each one focusing on a different disease; for example one is about cardio things, another is forensic, there is a vascular area, and so on.  What makes this museum special (at least for me) is the little folder in each section.  This folder explains the history of each specimen, as in what the symptoms were and so on.

    It really adds a personal touch to the displays, turning them from organs in jars into meaningful and individual things.  Making it easier to understand them and relate to them in a way.  the museum was also quite educational, it's not just organs in jars.  There is information scattered about, from historic medical equipment to information about harmful things (like smoking and junk food).

    Clearly the museum is geared more for high schoolers, but it's still great fun.  I found it oddly amusing and enjoyable to think of answers to questions on displays.  Questions like 'what is a cause of lung cancer', it reminded me of being back in school in a good way.  That sense of nieve exploration and investigation.

    A particularly fun section (at least for me) was the microscope room, there were several microscopes.  Each microscope had a different slide, one with regular blood, one with a mosquito, a tapeworm head, and more.  But my favourite was a tiny parasite, you could see the blood cells it had eaten inside (at least I think that's what it was, I am not a doctor by any measure).  It was just so interesting to see the parasite and the cells inside it.  Not an every day experience.

    The museum is surprisingly popular, it will get around 10,000 high school students this year.  And it participates in regular events.  It is also bigger than expected, they have over 3,000 displays, I remember my first trip thinking how much bigger it was than I thought.  And on this trip another person also commented on this, it really is a full size proper museum, not a little room with a few oddities.

    One of the museum staff suggested we might be able to get a private tour of the UNSW medical facility, including mortuary.  And that they would be interested in some cross-promotion with funeral companies.  So who knows what the future holds!

    For now I am looking forward to the next event!  Perhaps a walk around Waverley.


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