Notable pioneers and discoveries
North East and Highlands and Islands of Scotland have a remarkable medical heritage that spans the globe. Below is a list of museums, libraries and archives in the region that have medical related collections.
Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums
The collections contain over 6000 items. At the core is the Kenneth A. Webster Nursing Collection. Kenneth Webster was one-time Senior Nursing Tutor at Foresterhill College. His collection, largely 20th century but with some earlier material, covers all aspects of nursing and medicine as practised in North East of Scotland. A second named collection, the George Shepherd Pharmaceutical Collection comprises 19th and 20th century shop furniture, glassware, ceramics and associated dispensing material. The collection is supported by a run of prescription registers dating from the 1880s until the 1970s, almost wholly drawn from the business Davidson & Kay of Aberdeen.
T: 01224 337719
Aberdeen City Archives
Collections include Medical Officer of health reports for the City of Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Banffshire and Kincardineshire; registers of infectious disease; reports for the lunatic asylum; private paters of notable local people including medical bills, prescriptions and notes of medical complaints.
The archives are held on two sites:
Tel: 01224 522513
Old Aberdeen House
Tel: 01224 481775
Aberdeen Medico-Chirurgical Society
The Society was founded in 1789 as the Aberdeen Medical Society by students unhappy with the quality of their teaching. It evolved into a postgraduate Medical Society in 1811. The collections include minutes of the Society since 1789; MS volumes of lectures given at meetings; records of the medical services 1794-1814 collected by Sir James McGrigor, ""father of the Army Medical Services"; MS volumes of lectures taken by students from 1776; many books of medical interest, some in manuscript, mainly local; and a collection of medical instruments from the 18th century.
T: 01224 552737
Northern Health Services Archives
Northern Health Services Archives administers the archives of Grampian and Highland Health Boards. The Grampian archives held in Aberdeen date back to 1739, to the founding of the Aberdeen Infirmary. The collections include 18th and 19th century hospital records - general and specialist hospitals, asylums and some poorhouses; 20th century records of local National Insurance Committees set up under the 1911 National Health Insurance Act; 20th century records of the various NHS administrative bodies; and records of various local authority health departments covering a range of healthcare services including prevention of epidemics, mother and child welfare and school medical services.
By appointment only
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary
T: 01224 555562
University of Aberdeen - Anatomy Museum
The origins of the Anatomy Museum in Aberdeen are unclear but there is documentation which describes the opening of the refurbished Anatomy Museum at Marischal College in 1881 as part of a general refurbishment of the Anatomy department, at that time under the guidance of the first Regius Chair of Anatomy Professor John Struthers. Struthers was ahead of his time in terms of the needs of medical education and following his retirement from Aberdeen he went on to become the first Chair of the Medical Education Committee of the General Medical Council. Struthers was succeeded by Professor Robert W Reid who occupied the Regius Chair of Anatomy from 1889-1925. Professor Reid was a skilled dissector and made a sizeable contribution to the cadaveric objects within the Anatomy Museum.
The collections are wide ranging and the earliest specimens can be traced back to the 1870s. Collecting of objects for the museum has been driven by the research and teaching activities of staff over the years and the museum has some notable strengths: skeletal material, fluid-preserved specimens of human tissues, modern plastic anatomical models’ historical anatomical models (of wax, papier-mâché and plaster), and works on paper, including nineteenth century watercolours and anatomical drawings by Alberto Morrocco. In addition, the museum has a small collection of associated material, like anti-grave robbing devices used in the north-east of Scotland in the nineteenth century.
Access to the Collections
Access to the collection is restricted.
University of Aberdeen - King’s Museum
Scotland’s oldest – and newest – museum, the University of Aberdeen’s King’s Museum is open free throughout the year. On show are changing displays drawn from the university’s collections, which are among the largest and most important in Scotland, having been awarded the status of a Recognised Collection on National Significance’. Records of a museum in King’s College date back to 1727. King’s Museum houses exhibitions and activities which use the collections of Scottish archaeology and folk life, ethnography, Egyptian antiquities, numismatics and militaria, as well as from the University’s science collections.
University of Aberdeen - Special Collections
The University of Aberdeen was founded in 1495 and, until the 1970s, was the main repository for archival collections in the northern half of Scotland. A Special Collections department was formed in the 1960s to care for the universities unique and internationally significant range of printed, archival and other documentary sources. The richness of these collections extends across all the disciplines of the medieval and early modern university curriculum and across the European world of learning. Printed material comprises over 150,000 printed volumes, dating from the 1460s to the late-twentieth century, administered as four distinct chronological collections, which represent the evolution of the printed book and the University’s unique legacy of over 500 years of learning; and forty named collections, covering a wide variety of subjects, most of which have come to the University since the mid-nineteenth century. Archival holdings include medical archives reflecting the University’s expertise, from the late nineteenth century, in the allied fields of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and pathology. The collection provides researchers with the opportunity to explore the unique contributions made by significant members of this community to their professions; and to trace the developing role of these relatively new disciplines in medical education.
University of Aberdeen - Zoology Museum
The Zoology Museum has the only large, internationally important collection of zoological specimens in the north of Scotland. The earliest reference to the collections dates from 1782. In his book, A General Description of the East Coast of Scotland from Edinburgh to Cullen, Francis Douglas wrote, ‘Commencing about 1772 Professor William Ogilvie began of his own accord to put together a collection of specimens for a museum of natural history in the King’s College, and has now fitted up, and furnished three apartments for their accommodation...’ The collection was later at Marischal College and has been at its present location in Old Aberdeen since 1973.
The Zoology Museum cares for an extensive range of material, worldwide in scope, which covers the whole of the animal kingdom, from protozoa to the great whales. The collection contains around 75,000 specimens and it has resulted from over 200 years of collecting. Not only does it reflect the teaching and research interests of our staff and students, but also the gifts of graduates and friends of the University.
Access to collections
Access information can be found on the website or by contacting the museum.
Am Baile - online resource
Am Baile is the Highland Council's bilingual website, where the history and culture of the Scottish Highlands and Islands can be discovered. The site features photographs, illustrations, rare books, documents, short films and audio clips. Medical related material can be found by searching the A-Z subject index and through the topic society – health and welfare.
Dualchas Heritage Service for Skye and Lochalsh
The Heritage Service gives access to detailed information on the history and culture of the area through its resource material. One of the largest collections comprises 1,200 photographs and paper archives belonging to Duncan Macpherson, a chemist working in Kyle of Lochalsh from 1912 – c.1960s. The archive includes invoices; letters and orders to the pharmacy, largely dating from 1912-14; prescriptions; dispensing and record books from the 1950s and 60s; and reference books. Many of the photographs can be viewed on www.ambaile.org.uk.
Open: Mon to Fri, 9am – 5pm
Tigh na Sgire
Isle of Skye
Tel: 01478 613856
Falconer Museum, Moray
Medical related material includes artefacts from local pharmacies such as drug bottles, notebooks of prescription formulae dating from the 1800s, and objects and photographs relating to the local hospital and general practitioners in the area. Falconer Museum is named after local man Hugh Falconer (1808-65). A friend and associate of Charles Darwin and a significant medical figure and scientist in his own right.
Tel: 01309 696261
Fetlar Interpretive Centre
The Highland Council Archives
A small number of health related documents can be consulted including: medical officer of health reports; hospital records including a few registers; records and registers of poor relief and poorhouses and records and minute books of nursing associations. The majority of records date from the late 19th to the mid-20th century.
Open: Mon to Thurs 10am - 1pm and 2 - 5pm. By app only.
Tel: 01463 220330
The Highland Health Sciences Library & Highland Health Board Archives
Contains an impressive collection of healthcare books and journal and also includes an IT training suite. The library is open to all those who work and study in the Centre, NHS Highland staff, Highland Council Social Work Department staff, and Highland Hospice staff and students.
The Library also contains the Highland health Board Archives. The archives date from 1799 and include records of the Inverness District Asylum and Northern Infirmary material.
University of Stirling
Centre or Health Science
Old Perth Road
T: 01463 705269
The museum has a permanent display about the County Hospital, Invergordon. Built as a naval hospital during World War 1 the original buildings were demolished in 2005 to make way for a new community hospital. The display includes medical equipment from the hospital.
Open: May to Sep, Mon to Sat, 11am - 4pm, admission charge
Medical Memorabilia Collection
A privately owned collection of medical artefacts, equipment, books, pamphlets and memorabilia from the Highland region. Largely dating from the late 19th century to the 1960s.
Tel: 01863 766843
Founded by Elgin born Dr John Grigor (1818 – 86) an assistant ship’s surgeon before settling in Nairn in 1839 where he promoted the town as a health resort and the “Brighton of the North”. A bronze statue of Dr Grigor stands outside Nairn Museum where a number of his artefacts are held along with a collection of medical instruments and related items. Only a selection of the medical material is on display at any one time however it can be accessed by the public on request.
Tel: 01667 456791
The North Highland Archive
A few health related documents from the Caithness area can be consulted including those of Bignold Hospital, registers of infectious diseases, architectural drawings of hospitals, poorhouse records and minute books of nursing associations.
Open: Mon, Tues, Thurs 10am – 1.30pm, 2 - 5.30pm
Closed Wed (except June – Aug , 10am – 1pm)
Tel: 01955 606432
Shetland Museum and Archives
Based at Lerwick, the Museum displays life in Shetland, and holds sketchbooks and equipment related to Drs Hunter, Jamieson and Saxby. The collections also include optical equipment, obstetric tools from non-professional midwifery and wartime medical uniforms.
T: 01595 695057
Strathpeffer Upper Pump Room
Strathpeffer became established as a spa early in the 19th century. The first Pump room was built in 1819 with a hospital and hotel following soon after. With the arrival of the railway in nearby Dingwall in 1862, the spa became accessible to a wider audience. The season ran from May to October and a typical course of treatment involved taking the waters, bathing, diet and exercise. The main pump room was demolished in the 1950s but the Upper Pump Room recreates the days of the Strathpeffer Spa through an exhibition.
Open: Apr to Oct, Mon to Sat, 10am – 5pm
Strahpeffer Sap Gardens
Tel: 01997 421 415
The museum holds surgical equipment belonging to Colonel Henry Halcro Johnston (1856-1939), army medical corps and honorary president of the Orkney Natural History Society.
52 Alfred Street
T: 01856 850025
Tain & District Museum
The museum has a collection of items from a local chemist’s shop including medicines and equipment, offering an insight into the remedies commonly used before the NHS was set up in 1948. The museum also holds information about Sir Ronald Ross, who received the Nobel Prize in 1902 for his investigations into malaria, and Dr Elizabeth Ness Macbean Ross (1878-1915). Born in Tain, Dr Ross studied and practiced medicine in Scotland before going to work as an assistant to a physician in Iran in 1907, later travelling to Japan as a ship’s surgeon and upon the outbreak of World War 1 to Serbia, where she worked in a military hospital.
Open: Apr to Oct, Mon to Sat, 10am - 5pm, admission charge.
Tel: 01862 894089