History

The nucleus 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 1881, pathologist Harry Brookes Allen (1854-1926) was appointed lecturer in descriptive and surgical anatomy and pathology. In his letter of acceptance 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.
A corner of the Anatomical and Pathology Museum’ c. 1898
A corner of the Anatomical and Pathological Museum, Brownless Memorial Supplement, Alma Mater, Vol. III, No.6, September 1898. University of Melbourne Digitised Collections, 1979.0074

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.

Professor Richard J. A. Berry, Anatomy Museum from the entrance, looking East, 1906-1909, photograph, Medical History Museum, MHM03663.10A

In 2004, the two collections were reunited and named The Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology, to serve as a joint facility of the Anatomy & Neuroscience and Pathology Departments of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences of the University of Melbourne. The combined collections comprise over 14,000 specimens.

The Anatomy Museum after relocation to the current Medical Building, 1968, photograph, 24.8 x 19.6 cm. Medical History Museum, MHM02869.15