Edinburgh University's Anatomical Museum goes global via app

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.

Monday, 16th May 2016, 5:51 am
Updated Monday, 16th May 2016, 7:12 am
The skull of George Buchanan in a display case at the Anatomical Museum at Edinburgh University. Picture: University of Edinburgh Anatomical Collections/PA Wire

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

“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.”

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