Visualising Medical Heritage: Great Minds Exhibition

Written by on September 24, 2019

With every new academic year comes a new museum exhibition from the team at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. For the past 3 years, the College has hosted annual exhibitions highlighting different areas of our medical heritage. This year’s exhibition is titled, “Great Minds: The Brain in Medicine, Surgery and Psychiatry”, celebrating all areas of the brain and the 140th anniversary of the first successful brain tumour operation performed by Glasgow surgeon, William Macewen.

Alongside the physical items on display, the exhibition also includes an array of visualisation products to visually communicate the stories of the exhibition. Previous exhibitions have included visualisation products, however they were not accessible online for the full duration of the exhibition. This year will be the first time visualisation products included in the exhibition are made available online as soon as the public launch.

For the public launch, a series of 3D animations have been created to put different stories from the exhibition under the spotlight. For example, Macewen’s removal of a brain tumour is visualised through an animation, detailing every step of the operation and the patient outcome. This was possible by referencing Macewen’s own surgical journal, which is held within the College’s archive collection.

Another animation focuses on the Circle of Willis, a key anatomical structure of the cerebral circulation named after the “Father of Neuroanatomy”, Thomas Willis. As well as identifying several key areas of the brain, Willis also coined the term neurology, which enabled past College president, William Cullen, to coin the term neuroses.

More visualisation products will be developed over the period of the exhibition, creating new avenues for people to interact with our heritage.

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The College’s heritage collections – including thousands of medical and surgical instruments, rare books, archives, and pictures – span over 6 centuries and are an excellent resource for exploring the history of medicine and the history of the city of Glasgow. Many items from the collections have been digitised and are available to view here. Our digitisation work is ongoing, and we add new items to the site regularly, so keep checking back to discover more.

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