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Curious: The Craft of Microscopy

17 February 2010

Curious: The Craft of Microscopy is the new exhibition at the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. The exhibition, which runs from Tuesday 16 February to Saturday 3 July, 2010 will showcase the photography of innovative artist, Susanna Edwards.

Using nine different microscopes dating back to the 18th century, Ms Edwards has photographed a collection of Victorian slides to create a stunning series of natural images. Each photograph, taken as the eye would see through a microscope, documents how developments in microscopy have changed the way we see the world.

The exhibition will include large-scale photographic prints alongside the historic instruments used to capture them, the oldest of which is a 1730s Culpeper microscope.  The slides contain a range of natural materials gathered for their aesthetic, scientific and educational qualities. The exhibition provides an opportunity to view objects that are rarely or never seen by the public.

Speaking before the exhibition launch, Susanna Edwards said: “Several years ago I came upon a collection of antique microscope slides in a second-hand shop, and was intrigued by the creativity and dexterity involved in making these delicate objects. I did some research into the history of microscopy and became interested in the technology as a craft, art and science. The aim was to take photographs that recorded as closely as possible what the eye was seeing through each microscope.  My work has relevance with those with both scientific and artistic interests – and I hope that both can gain something from this cross-over exhibition.”

Professor Chris Hawes, Vice President of the Royal Microscopical Society said: “Anybody who enjoys microscopy would love to have the opportunity to work with such fine historic instruments. And, what artist would not love to present their work at a high-profile exhibition? What is thrilling about this project is that it has brought the two together in such a positive way. It will allow a new audience to see real examples of the development of the light microscope over the past 300 years.”

The exhibition will be supported by a programme of lectures, tours and hands-on workshops that explore the role of microscopes in medicine over the last three centuries.

Museum Director Simon Chaplin said: “Microscopy has played a vital role in the development of modern surgery and medicine – transplantation, reconstruction, operations on the ear and eye – have been made possible by the use of the operating microscope, allowing surgeons to dissect, suture and connect tissues and vessels at a level beyond visibility.  It is therefore fitting that the Hunterian Museum, in the heart of the Royal College of Surgeons will showcase Susanna’s work, which casts new light on a technology that we often take for granted.”

Exhibition Themes

  • The craft of creating microscope slides
  • The development of microscope technology
  • Historical microscopes
  • Craft and technology
  • Science and art
  • Natural forms under the microscope

Key Exhibits

  • Large scale photographic prints
  • Victorian Slides
  • 9 microscopes ranging from the Culpeper Microscope 1720-1738 to Axioskop 1994

Exhibit photographs and press visits available on request.

Susanna Edwards is an artist, designer and lecturer known for her innovative approach to the teaching and practice of art, design and illustration, spanning traditional and digital approaches to problem-solving. Curious: The Craft of Microscopy has been funded by the Royal Microscopical Society, the Arts Council and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

The Hunterian Museum’s accompanying events programme, The Lens of Life has been supported by the Royal Society as part of their 350th anniversary celebrations in 2010. For further details go to:


- Ends -

Notes to Editors

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is committed to enabling surgeons to achieve and maintain the highest standards of surgical practice and patient care. Registered charity number: 212808. For more information please visit
1.  The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England is based on the collections of the 18th-century surgeon John Hunter. Its permanent displays include over 3,500 specimens of human and animal anatomy and pathology, as well as exhibitions about surgery and medicine. The museum is open to all and admission is free.
2.  If you have any queries please contact:
Matthew Worrall   – Email: ;T: 020 7869 6047
Elaine Towell  – Email:; T: 020 7869 6045
Heather Casey – Email:; T: 020 7869 6042 

Out-of-hours: 07966 486 832