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RCS Collections awarded designated status by Arts Council England

19 Feb 2013

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) is delighted to announce that today our combined museum, archive and library collections have been awarded Designated status by Arts Council England.

This distinguishes the library, archive and Hunterian museum at the RCS as unique collections of national and international importance, complementing the previously designated status of John Hunter’s original specimens. Arts Council England award Designation to collections identified as being of national and international importance, held in England’s non-national museums, libraries and archives. This is based on their quality and significance. These collections are a vital part of England’s cultural and artistic heritage, informing individuals and communities and contributing to a sense of community and place.

The RCS collections have long reflected the history and development of British surgery and the surgical profession. They tell the story of surgical development and the profession’s endeavours to improve procedures and patient safety – from the first use of antiseptic in the operating theatre to the birth of minimally invasive keyhole surgery.

Many of the collections have been bestowed on the College by eminent surgeons, scientists and societies including John Hunter himself, William Long (second Master of the College), Lord Lister and the Odontological Society. They contain rare and distinctive material such as The diary of a resurrectionist, which provides a fascinating firsthand account of the dark practice of body snatching in early 19th century London.

Professor Norman Williams, President of The Royal College of Surgeons, said: 
“It is fantastic that in the year we commemorate the bicentenary of the Hunterian Museum, the College library, archives and museum have been awarded Designated status. We are extremely proud to house such a rich and diverse collection at the College. I know that I, and many other people both medical and non-medical, have been educated and inspired by their visits to the RCS and I am pleased that this has been officially recognised today.”

Dr Sam Alberti, Director of Museums and Archives, and Thalia Knight, Director of Library and Surgical Information Services, said:
“We are delighted that our combined museum, library and archive collections have been recognised as being of national and international quality and significance, in addition to the previously Designated Hunterian Collection at its core. Our collections have developed together over 200 years to form a rich resource telling the story of British Surgery. We will continue to make these resources even more accessible so that as many people as possible can experience, enjoy and learn from our treasures.”

Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said:
“This is great news for the Royal College of Surgeons and it’s fantastic to see the importance of this vast and varied collection being formally recognised through our Designation scheme, which is part of our overall work to make arts and culture more sustainable and resilient. What makes this even more exciting is that the wider sector and the public will also ultimately benefit from the knowledge sharing and best practise which comes with Designated status.”

Notes to editors

The Library is open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 5.30pm. The Hunterian Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm. Admission to the museum, library and archive is free and is open to all. Museum visitors are also encouraged to view the library reading room where there are changing exhibitions from the library and archive collections. Researchers need to register and make an appointment to view the library and archive collections.

For more information, please contact the RCS press office on:

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