Please enter both an email address and a password.

Account login

Need to reset your password?  Enter the email address which you used to register on this site (or your membership/contact number) and we'll email you a link to reset it. You must complete the process within 2hrs of receiving the link.

We've sent you an email

An email has been sent to Simply follow the link provided in the email to reset your password. If you can't find the email please check your junk or spam folder and add to your address book.

London's Lost Museums: Nature and medicine on show

1 March - 2 July 2011

Displays of natural history and anatomy have been common in London since the 17th century, but many collections have been dispersed, neglected or even destroyed. This exhibition highlights seven ‘lost’ museums with evidence from the library, archive and museum collections of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Museums evolved from ‘cabinets of curiosities’ established by private collectors in the 16th and 17th centuries. The term ‘museum’ itself was used from the late 17th century, and gradually came to mean not only a collection but also the display space.

Collections served different functions. They were used for entertainment, teaching and research. They enhanced the reputations of individuals and institutions by demonstrating connoisseurship or professional status. Some were open to the public, others only to a select audience.

Early collections were often diverse, including artworks, ethnographic artefacts, antiquities, animals, plants, minerals and human remains. As Europeans travelled more widely, museums were repositories for exotic species from newly explored lands. Gradually collectors became more focused, and many cabinets were transferred to institutional museums. Others were dispersed by auction or perished through poor care.


Exhibition team

  • Sarah Pearson, Curator
  • Dr Sam Alberti, Director of Museums and Archives
  • Jane Hughes, Head of Learning and Access
  • Louise King, Archivist
  • Martyn Cooke, Head of Conservation
  • Kritanand Poonyth, Museum Technician
  • Dr Christopher Plumb (University of Manchester), Curatorial Advisor

Royal College of Surgeons

  • John Carr, Photographer
  • Thalia Knight, Director of Library and Information Services
  • Hayley Kruger, Learning and Events Officer
  • Stefania Riccini, Visitor Services Manager
  • Angelo Vieira, Web Designer
  • Media Resources

We would like to thank the following for their support previous to and during the exhibition

  • Jackie Baines, Graphic Designer
  • Dr Simon Chaplin, Wellcome Library
  • Briony Hudson, Royal Pharmaceutical Society
  • Jake Noble
  • Sir John Soane Museum

Share this page: