Film Night: Green for Danger (1946)

Ott Whats On Quiz

Victorian Surgery Talk

Talk | Saturdays at 2:00 PM and Sundays at Noon

A surgical demonstration presented within the original architecture of the old operating theatre of St. Thomas’s Hospital of 1822.

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Staff Profiles: Q&A with Karen Howell

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The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection; the people that organize after-hours events...

Anatomist Over Taken

The Resurrection Men

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Anatomy and physiology are most important disciplines to a surgeon. By the middle of the 18th century, dissection of the dead had become central to surgical education...

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William Lowder: A Male Midwife in 18th-Century England

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​Midwifery was a developing science in the 18th century. New discoveries were being made in anatomy and physiology; new instruments were developed, and midwifery schools began to open, with courses running in the hospitals and partnerships created with lying in institutions.

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Staff Profiles: Q&A with Kirsty Chilton

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The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection...

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Ether, Anaesthesia and the Old Operating Theatre

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​In August 2008, as part of the building works at the museum, samples of sawdust from under the operating theatre were taken by conservator Jonna Holt. Apart from other things, she found ether residue in the area of the head end of the operating table. This ether was an old fashion form, slightly different to the purified medical ether that was soon to be introduced. This shows that this new advance was made available for St. Thomas’ Hospital’s patients very soon after its introduction.

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Staff Profiles: Q&A with Denise Leon

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​The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection...

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Staff Profiles: Q&A with Juliana Wakefield

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​The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection...

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Staff Profiles: Q&A with Julie Mathias

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The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection...

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Staff Profiles: Q&A with Iris Millis

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The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection...

Monica

Staff Profiles: Q&A with Monica A. Walker

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The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection...

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Staff Profiles: Q&A with Gareth Miles

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The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection...

Surrey Gardens

An Englishman’s Paradise

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In 1862, while the new buildings of St Thomas’ were under construction near Westminster Bridge, the hospital temporarily moved to Surrey Gardens. Now a populous area between the Kennington and Walworth Roads, the Gardens were once, according to Punch Magazine, ‘the most charming place of amusement in London’.

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The Christmas Rose as a Medicinal Plant

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​Today we know Black Hellebore (botanical name Helliborus Officinalis) as the Christmas Rose, but it also had a much older name, Christe Herb. The reason for both of these alternative names is that, in a mild winter, this plant will flower at Christmas. In past centuries it was said that it bloomed in joy at Christ’s birth.

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Gum Arabic: History and Uses

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Gum Arabic is a gummy exudation from the branches of the Acacia Senegal (L.) Willd and other species of the Leguminosae Family. It is also known as Gum Acacia, Kordofan Gum, Gum Senegal, Acacia Vera, Gummi Africanum, Gummae Mimosae, kher, Sudan Gum Arabic, Somali Gum, Yellow Thorn, Mogadore Gum, Indian Gum and Australian Gum.

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Introduction to English Witches in the Early Modern Period

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​Between 1450 and 1750 ecclesiastical and secular courts tried and executed tens of thousand of people throughout Europe for the crime of witchcraft. Witchcraft may be defined as supernatural activity, believed to be the result of power given by the Devil to cause harm to something or someone~ for instance death~ via non-physical means.

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‘Pain has an element of blank’

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​We assume that our ancestors felt pain in much the same way as we do today. But perhaps this ‘common-sense’ assumption is incorrect. The way individuals relate to the world, including their own bodies, is interpreted through culture, there is no such thing as an unmediated experience. The only way to make sense of the potentially overwhelming and chaotic nature of experiential reality is via reference to learnt, culturally specific narratives and metaphoric tropes.

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There Together Be Suspended

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​On November 13th 1849, the felonious couple Frederick and Maria Manning were publicly executed at the Horsemonger Lane Gaol, Southwark, for the murder of Patrick O’Connor – an affair that became known as the “Bermondsey Horror.”

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Victorian Attitudes Towards Self-Murder

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The corpses of those who commit suicide had long been excluded from interment in consecrated ground, rather they were buried at busy junctions in an effort to prevent malign spirits rising from the grave: it was thought that the traffic would keep any hostile force ‘down’. It was also believed that if a supernatural entity did manage to flee the burial pit it would be bewildered by the choice of potential paths offered at the crossroad. The stakes through the heart were a further prophylactic against the escape of evil, they were thought to ‘pin’ corrupt spectres to the spot.

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The Natural Ordure of Things

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It’s a fair assumption that not many of us contemplate the complex journey taken, from mouth to anus, of the food we eat. Once swallowed, the entire digestive process is involuntary and occurs without any conscious thought from the individual.

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A Museum Story

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It was Sunday morning. For the first time in a while, the sun was shining in London. As I came around the corner from London Bridge Station I looked up at the scaffolding that by now covered the tower of St. Thomas’ church. I climbed the spiral staircase and went into the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret.

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Seeing is Believing: Spiritualism in the Victorian Era-Part 1

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Spiritualism has been perceived as a new religion that arrived in England from America in the mid-nineteenth century. The central principles of the Spiritualist movement can be broadly characterized by a belief in the continuity of a life after death, coupled with the conviction that the deceased can communicate with the living through a spiritual medium.

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Seeing is Believing: Spiritualism in the Victorian Era-Part 2

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​In mid-Victorian London the early spiritualist movement was relatively small and mainly dominated by the upper circles of society. A varied grouping of middle-class intellectuals and professionals became the early advocates of spiritualism, which included physicians, professors, lawyers and writers of the day.

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Seeing is Believing: Spiritualism in the Victorian Era-Part 3

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In the dawn of modern spiritualism the general means of communication employed by the spirits were made by “raps” or “alphabet rapping”, where a medium could relay messages from the deceased by writing letters on a slate. Under more favourable conditions, the spirits were able to speak in a direct voice using of the lungs of the medium, or materialise all vocal organs for their own use

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Seeing is Believing: Spiritualism in the Victorian Era-Part 4

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The Society of Psychical Research was one of a number of organisations established in Britain in the latter part of the nineteenth century. It was founded in 1882 by a group of Cambridge philosophers and scientists after a meeting of the British National Association of Spiritualists. Their aim was to investigate scientifically, without prejudice, those capabilities of man that appear to be inexplicable.

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The Humoral Management of Blood: Cupping, Bloodletting and Staunching- PART 1

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​Blood and heart health is a central aspect of the normal monitoring and maintenance of our body function. Via medical analysis we know that a unit of blood is taken to be approximately one pint; that an average adult male can be estimated to have within their body about twelve pints of blood, a female nine pints; a healthy donor's blood has been analysed to replenish in about 24 hours, that red blood cells that are lost take longer and are totally replaced in a few weeks. Whole blood can be donated every eight weeks and we are aware that blood types must be matched in order to safely transfuse blood. Our blood is accepted as the body’s replenishing life force.

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The Humoral Management of Blood: Cupping, Bloodletting and Staunching- PART 3

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In 1853 within the Lancet* St Thomas’ trained surgeon Thomas Wakley (1795-1862) wrote a substantial obituary of Monson Hills Senior (1792-1853) the long serving Cupper to Guy’s Hospital: “In March, 1823, he was appointed surgery-man in Guy's Hospital, and after six months, having in this interval qualified himself by assiduity and dexterity, he was advanced to the situation of cupper...

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Review: Quacks and Anaesthesia

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Set in a time of change for medicine, Quacks also embraces the introduction of pain relief. Quacks is treating anaesthesia for effect, but there are also kernels of historic truth in this comedy.

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Polyps: A Real Life Hydra in Miniature

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Previously, I wrote a blog about the reintroduction of Rhinoplasty to European surgery in the early 19th century by Joseph Constantine Carpue. The idea of transplanting tissue had been neglected for such a long time in Europe, and I wanted to try to explore why that might be in that blog, as well as discuss Carpue’s achievement. However, while I was researching it, I came across many interesting tangents about transplantation and ideas about regeneration in history. Due to space, I didn’t elaborate then, but I wanted to come back to some of the subjects I touched on and give them their own space – the subjects of this blog, polyps, are one of those tangents.

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Precious Objects as Materia Medica

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In the Secrets of Maister Alexis, translated into English by William Warde in 1558 we find on folio 69 (recto) a recipe for a distilled water which "is very good to make white and to beautifie the flesh, and to take away the wrinckles of the face". It concludes with the confident words “A thinge proved”.

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The Black Poppy

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For centuries cottage gardens included Red Poppies. They were undoubtedly grown for their beauty but this meant that they would also be on-hand for the making of domestic remedies. Hill’s Herbal gives one example. A syrup could be made by pouring boiling water onto the plucked flowers, just as much as will wet them.

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Museum Dance Off 5: The Last Dance

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The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret is participating for the second time in the Museum Dance Off Competition. This is the fifth and final annual international dance off competition featuring the upstanding professionals from museums, galleries, libraries and archives around the world showing off their best dance moves. Check our journey and our submissions here. Help us do better than last year. Vote for us!

Fear Medicine

Events Programme 2019

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'Medical Fear' is something that everyone of us humans, past and present, have experienced at some point. We all experience illness and when we are unwell most of us want to get better. This often means doing something to ourselves that is alien, whether surgical, medicinal, or therapeutic. The methods that a sick person will use in their journey from illness to regaining their health can sometimes be scary for the individuals involved (the healers, the patients, the patients' families, etc.).

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Film Night: A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

Film night | 13 December, 2018, 7:00 PM

In one of the most beautiful and imaginative films ever made, Peter, a British Air Force pilot, bails out of his damaged plane and shares what he believes to be his last moments with Allied radio operator June. He survives, they meet and fall in love. After a mix-up in the afterlife, a divine messenger arrives to escort him to heaven to rectify his wrongful survival and Peter must argue for his life before a celestial court.

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Demons, Revenants and Nightmares: Fear and Dreaming in the Middle Ages

Talk | 21 February, 2019, 7:00 PM

How did people dream in the past? Do other cultures and time periods have different types of nightmares? Join Dr Bill MacLehose for a discussion of the dark side of the medieval world of dreams, as we explore the ways fear entered people’s dreams in the middle ages. We will look closely at the history of the medical condition called the incubus, in which sufferers awoke unable to move and often imagined that they were being attacked by a demon or other creature.

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Fearing the Beast: Animal Attacks and Medical Practice in the Middle Ages

Talk | 18 April, 2019, 7:00 PM

​Animals and humans lived in close proximity in the medieval period. Both the reality of animal bites and the fear of the event loomed large in the medieval imagination. This talk will examine this subject from the writings of medical authors and practitioners, in order to understand what animals were especially feared and what actions could be taken to either prevent an attack or the best remedial measures afterwards, from eating walnuts when going through a snake-infested area to applying ointments on cat bites.

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Overcoming Fear: A Tale of Cobras, Chloroform and Consumption. The Life, Times and Influence of Joseph T Clover.

Talk | 29 May, 2019, 7:00 PM

​ In the middle of the 19th century, a new participant entered the operating theatre. Sitting at the end of the operating table, largely unnoticed, the anaesthetist watched over the patient, observing everything around them. Many who took that seat were students, junior doctors, nurses, or even porters, but some were doctors who had elected to specialise in this emerging branch of medicine. One of these doctors was unique.

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After Hours Victorian Surgery Demonstration

Special Event | 31 January, 2019, 7:00 PM

​This is a unique after hours event that will take you back in time to witness a mock Victorian surgical demonstration presented within the original architecture of the old operating theatre of St. Thomas’s Hospital dated to 1822. Before the advent of anaesthesia, an operation had to be swift. Without hand-washing or antiseptics, the chance of later infection was high.

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After Hours Victorian Surgery Demonstration

Special Event | 7 March, 2019, 7:00 PM

​This is a unique after hours event that will take you back in time to witness a mock Victorian surgical demonstration presented within the original architecture of the old operating theatre of St. Thomas’s Hospital dated to 1822. Before the advent of anaesthesia, an operation had to be swift. Without hand-washing or antiseptics, the chance of later infection was high.

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After Hours Victorian Surgery Demonstration

Special Event | 9 May, 2019, 7:00 PM

​This is a unique after hours event that will take you back in time to witness a mock Victorian surgical demonstration presented within the original architecture of the old operating theatre of St. Thomas’s Hospital dated to 1822. Before the advent of anaesthesia, an operation had to be swift. Without hand-washing or antiseptics, the chance of later infection was high.

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DOOZY: Hysterical Male Laughter and Cartoon Villainy

Special Event | 25 April, 2019, 7:00 PM

​The debut feature from UK artist-filmmaker Richard Squires, DOOZY is a creative documentary that employs 'Clovis', an animated antihero, as a means to explore the particular “voice” casting of cartoon villains in the late 1960s. Through the lens of one of Hollywood’s hidden queer histories, the actor Paul Lynde’s voicing of a series of Hanna-Barbera cartoon villains, DOOZY contemplates the psycho-social relationship between villainy and hysterical male laughter; the use of voice as a signifier of ‘otherness’ and the frequently uneasy symbiosis of character and actor.

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Film Night: Nosferatu (1922)

Film night | 25 January, 2019, 7:00 PM

One of the most eerie, foreboding and influential horror films in the history of cinema, Nosferatu wasn't quite the first vampire film, but it was the first adaptation of Dracula (albiet an unofficial one) and established the conventions of succeeding vampire pictures: the thirst for blood, the power of sunlight to destroy the creature and vampirism as a metaphor for sexuality, contagion and xenophobia.

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Film Night: Mad Love (1935)

Film night | 14 February, 2019, 7:00 PM

An accomplished but lustful surgeon (Peter Lorre in arguably his greatest performance) is driven to psychotic behaviour over his perverse obsession with an actress. His compulsion and sexual frustration lead him to replace her pianist husband's wounded hands with those a knife murderer which still have the urge to throw knives.

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Film Night: Green for Danger (1946)

Film night | 14 March, 2019, 7:00 PM

A Scotland Yard inspector investigates a series of mysterious deaths in the operating theatre of a Second World war emergency hospital, revealing a number of underlying motives and previously unknown connections. The idiosyncratic Alastair Sim features as the scrutineer who takes great pleasure in getting under the skin of his suspects. His sardonic, sarcastic character provides a wonderful counterpoint to the darkly atmospheric surroundings of the hospital.

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Drop-In Art Sessions

Workshop | Tue-Sun, 10:30 AM - 5:00 PM

The museum welcomes individual artists in our drop-in art sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays during opening times.

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The Gore Tour

Talk | Sundays at 2:00 PM

In this tour, the museum's resident researcher, Kirsty Chilton, will invite the public to take a visual tour through some of the most grizzly and terrifying surgical instruments ever designed and how they were used in the Georgian and Victorian Era. The surgical knives, the amputation saws, the trephines, and forceps are just a sample of objects used in the past and they will be presented live through our object handling collection.

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Visiting us

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The Museum is located in central London, in the historic Borough of Southwark along the same street as the Shard, just south of London Bridge.

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History

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The Operating Theatre (operating or emergency room) is found in the attic of an English Baroque Church dated to the 18th century.

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Venue hire

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The Museum is a great place for a reception or book launch. It is very atmospheric, which makes it a very special place.

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Walks

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Our walks can complement any of our talks for schools, colleges & universities, as well as for people with a general interest in the history of medicine, public health, and crime. Even though the following walks describe general objectives and curriculum links for schools, these walks can be customised to suit other ages and interests.

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