Over the last four months I have been preparing a display, featuring an autopsy kit, at The Infirmary for my work placement at the University of Worcester. The kit is currently on loan from the George Marshal Medical Museum. I estimate the kit was in use from the late 19th century. Professional autopsies became more widely practiced after the 1832 Anatomy Act, which lessened the restrictions on the supply of bodies to dissect. This was indicated from the simplistic design of the tools, as well as the box. The mahogany box with brass buckles, was the fashion from the 19th to early 20th centuries. ‘J. Hague London’ was inscribed on most of the items, but I have not found any records so far as to indicate who this manufacturer was.
On my first day I was taken into the room where items were stored and shown how to safely handle objects, especially these with blades This was a completely new and exciting experience, so I was shown the procedures used in storing and keeping track of items. To find out about the autopsy kit, I went to the George Marshal Medical Museum at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital to look through catalogues of medical equipment. One catalogue dated back to 1844, so I had to place them on large pillows to support the spines. The catalogues helped me narrow a point to when the kit is likely to have been in use and the names for the various instruments. When I was putting up the display the biggest challenge was deciding how to arrange each of the pieces. I wanted to make sure everything was easy to see, but also to use the space evenly, to allow visitors a professional standard of quality.
I look forward to receiving feedback on the display. Feel free to get in contact with The Infirmary to let us know what you think. It would also be great if you know of any interesting facts about autopsies in the past or maybe something relating to this kit itself.
Stefan Simpson-Soye, Joint Honours History And Joint Politics: People & Power
A little something from our newly-appointed Engagement Fellow, funded by the British Society for the History of Science.
"I applied for the BSHS Engagement Fellowship as I am interested in how the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 impacted social, cultural, medical, and commercial spheres. The subject tags onto my PhD research in the History of Medicine, which focuses on commercial healthcare products between 1870-1920.
"I am intrigued by the fact that, during the pandemic, a number of advertisements for branded medicines claimed to prevent or cure the ‘flu, playing on consumers’ fears. I plan to uncover the local response to the pandemic by researching the impact it had on the Worcester area. The opportunity to work closely with archival material and turn research into different outreach outputs will help me develop my own skills; I aim to gain experience in interpretation and public engagement within the museum sector.
"I am also looking forward to collaborating with Louise at the GMMM, as well as volunteers, on this timely and important project in the centenary year of the pandemic, and am eager to create outputs that challenge visitors' perceptions of the First World War, by highlighting that disease had a greater impact on the death toll than combat."