Warren Anatomical Museum
A part of the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine in conjunction with Harvard Medical School and the Boston Medical Library, the Warren Anatomical Museum “is one of the last surviving anatomy and pathology museums associated with a medical school in the United States” and “was designed and implemented to preserve, classify and make accessible the biologic and artificial preparations and models critical for the education of these 19th- and early 20th-century physicians (“About”). The museum features artifacts, focuses on the history of health sciences and medicine, and ultimately serves “to enable the history of medicine to inform contemporary medicine and deepen our understanding of the society in which medicine is embedded and to support the greater mission of Harvard Medical School to create and nurture a diverse community of the best people committed to leadership in alleviating human suffering caused by disease” (“About”). Featured collections include Phineas Gage (skull, life cast, and tamping iron), the Boston Phrenological Society collection, the Boston Society of Medical Improvement, the Dickinson-Belskie Obstetrical Model collection, and the Pelvis and Proximal Femurs of Charles Lowey.
Backstory and Context
The museum was founded in 1847 by Harvard Medical School anatomist and surgeon John Collins Warren, who was one of the founders of Harvard Medical School. Warren donated the Museum of Massachusetts Medical College to Harvard Medical School in 1847. The museum, which now houses over 15,000 artifacts, began with donations of artifacts and teaching resources from physicians, surgeons, professors, and scientists.
In the 20th century, the museum expanded to feature medical instruments and devices and focus on the history of medicine. In 1999, the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Anatomy became the Center for the History of Medicine. “The survival of the collection was rare for an American medical school, as most US medical museums were decommissioned in the mid-20th century. The present collection includes approximately 3200 anatomical and osteological preparations, 750 wet tissue preparations, over a 1000 watercolors, drawings, photographs, and lantern slides, an estimated 1000 anatomical models and casts, 500 human and non-human calculi, and roughly 8500 medical, dental, and public health instruments and devices. The collection’s strengths are in anatomy, pathology, and medical education, and it draws from the Harvard and Harvard affiliate health services community” (“Warren Collection”).