From Bottled Babies to Biobanks: Medical Collections in the Twenty-First Century
The history of anatomical and pathological collections demonstrates the central role of collecting and preserving human material in medical practice. Yet many such collections have lost their central position in medical research and teaching as attention has shifted towards the cellular and molecular levels. Several collections are now perceived as historical rather than medical and, as a consequence, the curatorship has changed hands from doctors to historians.1 Likewise, the majority of scholarship on medical museums (including hospital and university collections) concentrates on historical practices. While this chapter takes historical practices as its point of departure, its main purpose is to argue that many aspects of historical collecting practices are still in evidence in today’s biomedicine. The history of anatomical and pathological collections in medical museums is thus not a story about collections in decline, but rather part of a bigger story about the enduring importance of collecting in medicine.