Edinburgh University’s Anatomical Museum goes global via app

The skull of George Buchanan in a display case at the Anatomical Museum at Edinburgh University. Picture: University of Edinburgh Anatomical Collections/PA Wire
The skull of George Buchanan in a display case at the Anatomical Museum at Edinburgh University. Picture: University of Edinburgh Anatomical Collections/PA Wire
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MACABRE artefacts from Scotland’s medical history – including the skeleton of notorious serial killer William Burke and more than 1500 skulls – are going on show to a global audience for the first time.

A new interactive app allows people across the world to virtually tour the Anatomical Museum at Edinburgh University, including areas of the museum and Old Medical School building not usually accessible to the public.

William Burke's skeleton as it appears on the virtual tour. Picture: PA

William Burke's skeleton as it appears on the virtual tour. Picture: PA

Among the grisly objects users can investigate is the skeleton of body-snatching murderer Burke – infamous for the killing spree he carried out with William Hare to provide bodies for anatomy classes at the medical school. Burke was hanged and publicly dissected in 1829.

Other exhibits include life and death masks of famous figures including Oliver Cromwell, Sir Walter Scott and Napoleon Bonaparte, and a room containing 1500 skulls from around the world.

Thanks to the free app, developed by Edinburgh-based technology firm Luma 3D Interactive, the university’s archive collections of preserved human body parts, used to teach anatomy to medical students for centuries, are on show to the public for the first time.

Only medical students and staff were allowed to access the museum until 2012, when the doors were opened to the public for one day a month. At other times, it is still used to teach medical students and there is no visitor access.

A view from a new interactive app that allows people across the world to virtually tour the Anatomical Museum at Edinburgh University, including areas of the museum and Old Medical School building not usually accessible to the public. Picture: University of Edinburgh/PA Wire

A view from a new interactive app that allows people across the world to virtually tour the Anatomical Museum at Edinburgh University, including areas of the museum and Old Medical School building not usually accessible to the public. Picture: University of Edinburgh/PA Wire

The new virtual tour gives 360-degree views with the ability to zoom in and view objects of interest in detail and select them to find out more about their history.

Professor Gordon Findlater said: “It seemed to me to be a great shame to have such a wonderful collection of anatomical and other artefacts locked away from public viewing.

“We started opening the museum to the public so that people in and around Edinburgh would have the opportunity to view the exhibits.

“Now, with this app, anyone with an interest in our collection can access it from anywhere in the world.”