Medical History Museum celebrates 50th Anniversary

The newly refurbished Medical History Museum has celebrated 50 years with the launch of its latest exhibition – The Cancer Puzzle: Patterns, Paradoxes and Personalities.

The story of cancer told through The Cancer Puzzle is one that is uniquely complex and personal.

One in every two Australian men and one in three Australian women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85, and it is a disease shrouded in fear and dread.

For generations doctors and researchers have been desperately searching for effective treatments or cures. At the moment the so-called 'blunt instruments' of surgery – radiotherapy and chemotherapy –are still the main medical treatments, however new approaches and technologies are emerging.

Pivotal to the story of cancer in Victoria has been the contribution of the University of Melbourne to the development of treatment, research, public education and advocacy. Various deans of Melbourne Medical School such as Peter MacCallum have been leaders in advocating for the infrastructure that has underpinned cancer services for the Victorian community.

Speakers at the exhibition launch (L to R): Dean of the Faculty of Medicine Dentistry and Health Sciences, Professor Shitij Kapur; Medical History Museum Curator, Dr Jacqueline Healy; and Chair of the Medical History Museum Advisory Committee, Professor Mark Cook.

The exhibition explores the roles of key individuals, public education campaigns and cutting edge research, as well as the personal responses of cancer sufferers through the work of contemporary artists diagnosed with the disease. It draws on the collections of the Medical History Museum, the Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology, University of Melbourne Archives, Cancer Council Victoria, and other major collections.

Developed by Medical History Museum Curator Dr Jacqueline Healy, the exhibition and its catalogue were officially launched by Professor Andrew Roberts, Metcalf Chair of Leukaemia Research and Clinical Haematologist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

The Medical History Museum was established in 1967 by Professor Kenneth (Red) Russell through a generous grant from the Wellcome Trust. It is an important collection in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, comprising over 6000 items covering the history of the Melbourne Medical School and the broader history of medicine in Australia and overseas.

The refurbished museum space during The Cancer Puzzle exhibition launch – now open to the public.

The refurbished museum space – generously funded by Denise de Gruchy, sister of the late Dr Carl de Gruchy – features contemporary display cases, specialist museum lighting, and integration of the Museum collection within the Brownless Biomedical Library. These improvements enhance the Museum's capacity to tell many stories through its exhibition program covering themes linking scientific discovery with society and culture.

The exhibition catalogue was generously sponsored by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

Photos taken at the exhibition launch are available to view and download below.

The Cancer Puzzle: Patterns, Paradoxes and Personalities is on at the Medical History Museum until February 24, 2018.