Dentistry: Innovation and Education

Wednesday, May 6, 2020 to Saturday, September 25, 2021

Online Exhibition

Dentistry: Innovation and education

This exhibition celebrates the 135th Anniversary of the establishment of the Odontological Society of Victoria in 1884, which brought about the development of the first dental school in the State.


The Women’s: carers, advocates and reformers

Thursday, April 18, 2019 to Saturday, November 2, 2019

The exhibition, The Women’s: carers, advocates and reformers and accompanying catalogue highlights items from the Women’s Hospital Historic and Archive collection, Medical History Museum collection and  Public Records Office. It explores the role of key individuals, public education and health campaigns, public policy and research, from the first hospital site to where the hospital is located today. The exhibition will also acknowledge the stories and traditions of the traditional owners.

The Women’s has played a critical role in the life of Melbourne since its beginnings. As historian Janet MacCallum explains:  “The Royal Women’s Hospital opened in August 1856 as the Melbourne Lying-In Hospital and Infirmary for the Diseases Peculiar to Women and Children in a terrace house in Albert Street, East Melbourne. Melbourne was in the midst of a gold-rush that would bring half a million people through the colony in the decade. Women were abandoned, pregnant and destitute, while their husbands and erstwhile lovers tried their luck on the goldfields. The need for a charity lying-in hospital for women without homes was urgent.”

Image:  Dr Kate Campbell (1899-1986) examining a premature baby in an isolette, 1974, photograph, 23.8 x 17.5cm, Gift of Winifred Crick, Medical History Museum, MHM02260

The Art of Healing: Australian Indigenous bush medicine (international tour)

Sunday, March 3, 2019 to Sunday, February 2, 2020

Bush House, King’s College London
14 May - 28 June 2019

The Berlin Museum of Medical History, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
24 October 2019 - 2 February 2020

For 65,000 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have occupied the lands, with distinct cultural boundaries defined by intimate relationships with Country. The exhibition The Art of Healing: Australian Indigenous bush medicine follows the premise of Tjukurpa (Dreaming). It looks at traditional Indigenous healing practice as simultaneously past, present and future. A selection of 20 works from the exhibition are touring internationally in 2019 and 2020.

Through contemporary art, the exhibition presents examples of healing practice and bush medicine from many distinct and varied Indigenous communities across Australia. The artworks in this exhibition tell stories of bush medicine from many parts of Australia, as an introduction to a vast bank of knowledge that precedes and parallels other great healing traditions.

“Bush medicine has always been with Aboriginal people. It was before, and we will always be making bush medicine. There are all kinds of bush medicine and they grow all over. You’ll find they’re different in each place, and we have these ones that I’ve painted.”
– Judith Pungkarta Inkamala

This use of contemporary art underlines the continuing practice of bush medicine, by revealing it through a current lens. It also demonstrates visually the distinct and varied cultures that make up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia.

Many of the works in the exhibition illustrate particular bush medicines, and in their accompanying words the artists share with us their knowledge of their uses. On her Bush medicine pot Hermannsburg ceramic artist Judith Inkamala illustrates the process of preparing bush medicine. The pot is crowned with a depiction (sculpted in clay) of a knunkara (medicine woman) using a grinding stone to prepare bush medicine. Inkamala explains: ‘The old lady and the old brother will sing, sing, sing and spit into the bush medicine as they mix it. That’s why everyone will get better and everyone will become strong’.

Elder and Ngangkaṟi (traditional healer), Ilawanti Ungkutjuru Ken has created a basket based on observing birds’ nests, to show the power of family and community for a person’s wellbeing. She says: ‘My basket is like a nest.'

Iiawanti Ken

Ilawanti Ungkutjuru Ken (b. 1944)
Language: Pitjantjatjara
Community/location: Amata, Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, South Australia mother’s Country: Arula
Father’s Country: near/south of Wataru
Artist location: Ingkerreke Outstation, Rocket Bore, Northern Territory
Tjulpu wiltja: bird nest basket, 2017
Tjanpi, wool, raffia, emu feathers, wire
50.0 × 60.0 × 50.0 cm

The ancestral knowledge of healing of the Yorta Yorta people is celebrated in a major work by Treahna Hamm. Dhungala cool burn shows women and girls collecting bush medicine along the banks of dhungala (the Murray River), placing the medicines in coolamons and in dilly bags.

Marilyne Nicholls’ method of coil weaving has been used in south-eastern Australia for thousands of years, to make baskets, belts, mats, eel traps and other items.  Nicholls’ Healing basket is woven from Sedge fibre and includes two medicine plants: Coastal Rosemary and gum leaves, both of which are used for smoking ceremonies to cleanse and heal.

Senior Gija Elder and artist Shirley Purdie has been working for several years with linguist Frances Koford to document medicinal and other plants of the East Kimberley, identifying individual species and recording their Gija, Latin and English names. Preserving vital information and cultural memory for future generations, through written records and individual artworks.

‘Biriyal (Conkerberry or Carissa lanceolata) is used for smoking people to get away bad spirits. Used for all ages when they are sick—if they are dreaming about anything or not eating.’

Image: Dhungala cool burn, 2017, Treahna Hamm (b. 1965), acrylic paint, river sand, bark ink on canvas, 100.9 × 114.0cm (one panel)

The art of healing: Australian Indigenous bush medicine

Monday, April 23, 2018 to Saturday, March 2, 2019

Monday 23 April to Saturday 2 March 2019

The art of healing: Australian Indigenous bush medicine follows the premise of Tjukurrpa (dreaming). It looks at traditional Indigenous healing practice as past, present and future simultaneously. It will present examples of healing practice from the many distinct and varied Indigenous communities throughout Australia. These will be shown through contemporary art practice and examples of plants and medicines. For example, Gija elder and artist Shirley Purdie has spent the last two year illustrating the bush medicine of her region near Warmun in the Kimberly.

Treahna Hamm reveals in Yorta Yorta Bush Medicine First Aid Kit the use of medicinal plants in Victoria. Whereas in Alice Springs the NPY women’s council with their Ngangkari (women healers) have undertaken a mental health program that examines issues contributing to well-being. This also acknowledges and encourages two-way learning: western and traditional practice working hand in hand.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a major catalogue with the perspectives of Indigenous communities represented. The key to this exhibition is revealing that traditional Indigenous healing is a current practice informed by the past, and an intrinsic part of the life of indigenous people in Australia.

The illustrated work by Judith Inkamala from Hermannsburg Potters was commissioned for this exhibition. Here, Judith Pungkarta Inkamala depicts many examples of bush medicine.

"On this pot you can see the old brother walking, the eldest one, the sister in law going to visit the Ngangkara One (Bush Medicine Doctor). They are the eldest and are there to prepare the bush medicine and teach the young ones. The old lady and the old brother will sing, sing, sing and spit into the Bush medicine as they mix it. Singing medicine into the mixture, over the big pot then sing that medicine into the jars. That's why everyone will get better and everyone will become strong". Judith Inkamala

Judith Pugkarta Inkamala, Western Arrarnta born 1948, Bush Medicine 2017, terracotta and underglaze, Medical History Museum, MHM2017.17

The cancer puzzle: patterns, paradoxes and personalities

Tuesday, August 1, 2017 to Wednesday, March 14, 2018

One of the great lessons of medical history is that the big breakthroughs in understanding of disease often come unexpectedly. Professor Nick Nicola

The story of cancer is complex and extremely personal. 1 in 2 Australian men and 1 in 3 Australian women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85. It is a disease shrouded in fear and dread. There are many types of cancer: lung, prostate, breast, stomach, bowel to name some of the most prolific. For generations doctors and researchers have been frantically searching for remedies. At the moment the so-called 'blunt instruments' of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are still the main medical treatments, however new approaches and technologies are emerging.

Pivotal to the story of cancer in Victoria has been the contribution of the University of Melbourne in the development of treatment, research, public education and advocacy. Various Deans of Melbourne Medical School such as Peter MacCallum have been leaders in advocating for the infrastructure that has underpinned the cancer services for the Victorian community.

This exhibition explores the roles of key individuals, public education campaigns and cutting edge research. It also explores the personal responses of cancer sufferers through the work of contemporary artists who have cancer. The Cancer Puzzle draws on the collections of the Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology, the Medical History Museum, University of Melbourne Archives, Cancer Council Victoria and other major collections.

It's a Gas! Dentistry & Cartoons

Monday, May 9, 2016 to Saturday, December 17, 2016

"It’s a gas!" is an expression meaning "it’s hilarious" or "it's funny". A possible origin is the effect of Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas) on one’s behaviour. Nitrous Oxide gas was first synthesised by the English chemist Joseph Priestly in 1772, and first used to anaesthetise a dental patient in 1844. Anaesthetics transformed the delivery of dental services, having a significant impact on the well-being of the patient. However people still fear the dentist and the dentist is the brunt of many jokes. This exhibition traces the history of dentistry through illustrations and cartoons dating from the seventeenth century to today. Themes include fear, relief, pain and vanity. Works will come from private and public collections. It is on at the Medical History Museum, Brownless Biomedical Library, University of Melbourne.

Medicine: Then and Now

Monday, February 22, 2016 to Monday, June 20, 2016

Medicine: Then and Now tells the story of how Medicine has transformed over the last fifty years. The exhibition highlights and contrasts important medical instruments and visual records of the student experience, past and present. This exhibition has been possible due to the generosity of Melbourne Medical School Alumni and current medical students who have kindly donated items for this exhibition. The exhibition concept and planning has been lead by members of the Melbourne Medical School Student Ambassador program. The Melbourne Medical School Student Ambassador program is an initiative to promote student leadership, peer-to-peer student support, and opportunities for mutual learning between students, alumni and the broader community. The exhibition is on the 1st floor of the Brownless Biomedical Library, University of Melbourne

Compassion and Courage: Australian Doctors and Dentists in the Great War

Friday, April 24, 2015 to Saturday, April 30, 2016

War precipitates change and discovery in both the medical profession and in the field of dentistry due mainly to necessity and the immediacy of the issues at hand. The forefront of this innovation is in the field, in the midst of makeshift hospitals, poor hygiene and inadequate supplies. During WWI servicemen dealt with appalling conditions in the trenches and were subjected to the effects of new weapons such as mustard gas. Consequently, medical professionals in the field faced a courageous battle against the challenges of war wounds, poor sanitation and disease. This exhibition explores the physical injury, disease, chemical warfare and psychological trauma of WWI, the personnel involved and the important medical and dental breakthroughs that were a direct outcome of the War. Sponsored by Victorian Medical Insurance Agency Ltd, the name behind PSA Insurance.

Boisterous Beginnings: Doctors in the Port Phillip District

Saturday, October 11, 2014 to Saturday, February 28, 2015

Surgeon George Bass, Matthew Flinders’ close friend, had visited what became Victoria when he landed in Western Port Bay in 1798 but it was not until settlement in the 1830s that doctors began their work in what was then known as the Port Phillip District. The Medical Register was extended from New South Wales to the Port Phillip District in 1838. There were some formidable personalities practising medicine in the area at the time, but they often had other interests and activities that were apparently more important: politics, for example, the acquisition of land and the accumulation of fortune. By 1844, the Medical Board had listed in the Government Gazette 35 “gentlemen [who had] submitted the necessary testimonials of qualification” to practise in the Port Phillip District. But it was two years before 12 of them formed a Port Phillip Medical Association (PPMA). This exhibition examines these early beginnings of a professional association highlighting the key individuals and social values of the day.

Epilepsy: Perception, Imagination and Change

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 to Saturday, October 4, 2014

Attitudes to epilepsy provide an excellent perspective on the collision between magic and science, the earliest records attempting to distinguish between disease and demonic possession. This interpretation of the origin of seizures has influenced significantly the management of the illness over the ages, and continues to inform popular conceptions. This exhibition brings together past and present attitudes to epilepsy examining impact on individuals, families and communities. 2014 is the fiftieth Anniversary of the Epilepsy Foundation of Victoria.

Strength of Mind: 125 Years of Women in Medicine

Friday, September 13, 2013 to Saturday, April 5, 2014

Women were admitted to Melbourne Medical School in 1887, 25 years after the course had commenced but 21 years before women were entitled to vote in Victoria. These first seven female medical students were tenacious, resilient, and visionary; challenging the social values of their day and making major contributions to public health in Victoria. Led by Constance Stone the first woman to register as a doctor in Victoria in 1890 ( she had undertaken her medical education in Canada) they went on to establish the Queen Victoria Hospital in 1896. The first hospital established in Australia for the care of women that was managed and staffed by women and one of three internationally. These attributes have been the qualities of many women in medicine over the last 125 years as they have contributed to all aspects of medical practice and research. Women now comprise over 50% of medical graduates. This exhibition celebrates their achievements from 1887 to now.

Venom: Fear, Fascination and Discovery

Monday, March 25, 2013 to Saturday, August 24, 2013

Human fascination with the power of venom and the quest for a universal antidote against this most feared of poisons, is deeply woven into the history of medicine. Australia has some of the world’s most venomous creatures. Over thousands of years Australian Aboriginal people incorporated ways of understanding and dealing with these venomous creatures in their cultural and healing practices. Colonial Australia response was fear and fascination. The first exhibits at the Melbourne Zoological Gardens were snakes to warn the local population of their danger. From the first professor of Medicine, George Britton Halford, the University of Melbourne has been part of the global debate on the nature of venom.

A Body of Knowledge : The Art of Teaching : Clinical Schools

Thursday, September 13, 2012 to Sunday, March 3, 2013

Clinical schools have always been an intrinsic part of the teaching of doctors. Photographs, artworks, objects and documents from the archives of St Vincent’s Hospital, The Alfred Hospital, Austin Health, The Royal Children’s Hospital, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, The Royal Women’s Hospital, Southern Health, The Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital, Western Health and the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) reveal the early beginnings, students and major figures in the life of the clinical schools.

A Body of Knowledge : The Anatomy Lesson

Thursday, September 13, 2012 to Sunday, January 20, 2013

Encompassing models, moulages, notebooks, photographs and illustrations—items from the extensive collections of the Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology, the Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum, the Medical History Museum, and other University collections—this exhibition will highlight the fascinating objects and materials used in the teaching of medicine and dentistry at the University of Melbourne.

A Med Students Life

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 to Friday, August 24, 2012

Memories, ephemera and photographs of student days collected from Melbourne medical graduates from the 1860s to today. This exhibition brings together the key elements of student life; the teachers, the study and the camaraderie.

Highlights of the Collection

Friday, February 3, 2012 to Tuesday, March 20, 2012

50 items selected for Highlights of the Collection, Medical History Museum collection ranging from major examples of human endeavour and scientific discovery to mundane objects. Yet, their distinct provenances all enrich our knowledge of medical history.

The Physick Gardener: Aspects of the Apothecary's World

Thursday, April 1, 2010 to Saturday, September 1, 2012

From the Collections of the University of Melbourne exploring the practice and tools of apothecary.