The foundation of the anatomy and pathology collections dates to 1859, when the University Council proposed the establishment of a museum of ‘anatomical, pathological, physiological and botanical’ specimens. Specimens were collected, mounted and maintained by Thomas Shearman Ralph (1813-1892) and were situated in a shed on the grounds of Melbourne Hospital – as the museum predated the establishment of the University’s Medical School.
In December 1876, pathologist Harry Brookes Allen (1854-1926) was appointed Lecturer in Descriptive and Surgical Anatomy and Pathology, and Sub-conservator of the Museum. By 1883, the museum had outgrown its small space in the hospital, and Allen proposed that it be relocated to the university and expanded under his supervision. In a letter to the Vice-Chancellor and Members of the University Council, Allen wrote:
One of the final objects which I set before myself is the creation of a large and efficient Museum of Anatomy and Pathology in the Medical School, a small but valuable nucleus being already in place.
In 1906 Pathology and Anatomy were split into separate departments. Allen had been successful in building up a large and varied museum, and when he relocated to his new building, he took the collections with him. The Anatomy Department largely had to establish a new departmental museum from scratch. From the late 20th century onwards the Anatomy Museum’s displays have focused on clinical anatomy specimens but in its early days the anthropological collections were considered equally important, being described as a ‘museum of anatomy, anthropology, and neurology ’.
Due to Allen's lifelong dedication to expanding and organising the pathology collections, the Pathology Museum was named in his honour after his death in 1926.