History of the museum

Melbourne Medical School celebrated its 150 years in 2012. Established in 1862, Vice Chancellor, AC Brownless, a person of great vision, was determined that the medical program at the University of Melbourne would be a rigorous five year course, with standards higher than equivalent training in any medical school in Britain.

Brownless developed an initial proposal in 1857 however it took five years of determined negotiations to secure the school’s modest beginning without its own premises or Professor. When the first Professor of Anatomy, Halford arrived in October 1862 classes were held in a shed erected at the back of his private rooms. Photographs of the early medical school, Brownless in academic robes and Halford’s dissection class and associated material are all part of the medical history museum collection.

Over the years many people have assisted in the establishment and development of the Medical History Museum and its collection. It was Professor Kenneth F Russell’s passion for medical history that resulted in the establishment of the Medical History Museum in 1967 with the support of a grant from the Wellcome Institute. As Head of the Department of Medical History Professor Russell was responsible for the museum until 1981. During this time a major donation by the Wellcome institute of the Savory and Moore Pharmacy from London was installed in the Medical History Museum in 1971. For the next 16 years Professor Harold Attwood was Curator and further developed the collection through donations and like Russell wrote extensively on the history of medicine. The following decade emphasised the cataloguing and exhibition of the collection. Lisl Bladin (1997-2001) then Ann Brothers (2001-2009) systematically catalogued and digitised the collection and produced a comprehensive exhibition program. More recently Susie Shears (2009-11) transferred the catalogue to a state of the art web – based system. With assistance from the VMIA the database will go on line in June 2012 as part of the 150 anniversary calendar of events providing improved access to the Medical History Collection. The current curator Jacqueline Healy appointed in October 2011 has produced a series of catalogues on the collection including Highlights of the Collection , Medical History Museum and an extensive exhibition program.

The Medical History Museum and collection would not exist without the foresight and generosity of donors. The Initial grant of funds from the Wellcome Institute and gift of The Savory and Moore Pharmacy installed with funds from a private benefactor were pivotal contributions. The Australian Medical Association collection was loaned to the Medical History Museum when their museum closed in 1994. This collection was formally gifted to the Medical History museum in 2011 greatly enhancing the collection. Many of the alumni of Melbourne Medical School and others have contributed material to the collection greatly enriching the breadth and depth of the collection.

Professor James Best



Opening Hours

Monday to Friday: 10.00am to 5.00pm
Saturday: 1.00pm to 5.00pm
Weekend Hours vary during University holidays