Glimpses of Medical History

Glimpses of Medical History gallery


 This gallery will be closing on 20 September 2015 in readiness for our brand new medical galleries which will open in 2019. Read more about our plans.

This gallery depicts the work of doctors, dentists, opticians and surgeons through models and life-size reconstructions which illustrate developments in medical practice across the centuries. The medical scenes include operating theatres, pharmacies and optician practices through time.

Note: The gallery contains medical scenes that younger children may find disturbing. You may wish to visit the gallery beforehand, to decide if it's appropriate.

Use the gallery to explore the following ideas:

  • Over the last 100 years, equipment used by the medical professions has improved
  • Healthcare now includes preventative measures, whereas in the past it focused on cures
  • Improved hygiene and sterilisation techniques increase the chances of medical successes
  • More people use medical experts today than in the past.

In the gallery ask students to select one profession to study in depth. Ask them to find a display showing their chosen medical person at work - the following display cases will be most useful (the time period represented in the scene is given in brackets):

Doctor; display case no. 4 (1400s), no. 19 (1799), no. 31 (1868), no. 36 (1905), no. 41(1900).

Dentist: display case no. 22 (1930s), no.38 (1890s).

Optician: display case no. 5 (1000s), no. 25 (1930s).

Surgeon: display case no. 1 (15000-5000BC), no. 8 (1500s), no. 12 (1800), no.14 (1914-19), no. 26 (1980), no. 35 (1300), no.40 (1895).

Looking carefully at the display ask children to draw or list all of the instruments that the medical person is using. Discuss whether they would like to visit the person, and why.

Ask them to find another display of a person doing the same job. Is the equipment being used the same or different? Look also at the clothes being worn, and the room being used. How do these compare to professionals doing the same jobs today?

Before the visit ask children to investigate (individually, in pairs or in groups) one of the professions they will see in the gallery. Children can also discuss what advice they are given by experts/medical professionals or their parents/guardians to stay clean and prevent things going wrong with their bodies.

You could also invite a doctor, nurse, dentist or optician to talk about their work. This may also help to dispel some of the fears children have about seeing these professionals. If a visit isn't possible, your class could write a combined letter listing their questions.

After the visit  children prepare a presentation of what they have found out about the profession, using displays, models, talks, drama or music.

Ask them to draw a medical professional of the future, based on the differences they would like to see in that person's job in about 100 years time.

suggested 30 minutes
Suitable for:
ages 7 upwards
Places per session:
not applicable
Pre-booking req'd:
Supervisory ratio:

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