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Access and Audiences: Reaching out with Medical and Healthcare Collections

The Centre for Heritage Research

University of Leeds Centre for Heritage Research in Collaboration with the Creative Minds Project, Yorkshire Museums Libraries and Archives Council, and the Thackray Museum, Leeds

Date: October 18th 2005 4.30pm-6.30pm: Location: Thackray Medical Museum, St. James’ Hospital, Leeds


  • Rachel Bairsto, British Dental Association
  • Fiona Elliott, Chief Executive, Thackray Museum
  • Dawn Kemp, Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh


Emm Barnes, University of Manchester, Centre for HSTM

"Open Wide Please: The British Dental Association Museum Access Project", Rachel Bairsto, Curator, The British Dental Assocation Museum

This presentation will introduce the work of the BDA Museum: its history, diverse collection and resources. It will explore the background to the important decision to make this unique collection, of both national and regional significance, more accessible. This decision led to relocation and redisplay of the Museum. Coinciding with the redisplay of the Museum as part of the refurbishment of BDA headquarters and the application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for an Access Project.

This presentation will then discuss the aims of this Access Project which is in its initial stages. It will detail our approach to widening access for our target audiences of students at Key Stages 2 & 4 and older adult groups. The presentation will also explore the advantages and disadvantages of a small museum operating within a membership organisation.

"Who Would Want to Visit a Museum?", Fiona Elliott, Chief Executive Officer, Thackray Medical Museum

The Thackray Museum is the largest medical museum in the UK. It is renowned both for its schools education service and as a high quality visitor attraction in the region. The presentation will look at the range of projects, products and services the museum has developed to increase access and develop new audiences.

In particular, the presentation will explore recent projects designed to develop closer working relationships with the museum’s local communities. What are the barriers to participation and are we making an impact to overcome them?

"To keep the mischievous out…Development of Medical Collections in Scotland: the case of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh", Dawn Kemp, Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh

Current Policies and Practices:

Future of Management of Collections and A listed building Surgeons’ Hall – considerations of RCSEd

Surgeons Hall – brief history of the museum

Guided tours (after Alder Hay)

Establishment of Heritage Trust

Appointment of Director of Heritage: Museum professional not subject specialist

To increase public access but why ? (recent audience research)


Strategic Planning – away form 3year cycle of presidential elections

National Audit – findings, difficult to identify subject grouping

Underdeveloped Area

Covers many government departments/community and commercial sectors


Museum registration

UMIS Member

HLF Conservation Plan - £40k

Ad Lib Catalogue – Henry Wade Trust - £21k

RDCF Partnership project Scotland & Medicine: Collections & Connections - £300k


External and internal stakeholders

Limited resources esp staff/vols (sector CPD issues)

RDCF Project Ambitious – short time frame

Changes to the Anatomy Act and new Human Tissue (Scotland) Bill

How to best use the collective resources of all the interested sectors

The Future:


Cross-sectoral involvement

Museums and galleries with libraries and archives

Cultural community – arts literature

Lifelong learning: community groups, schools

Tertiary Ed, multi-disciplinary


Economic Development: health service as employer/Tourism/Biomed research

Commercial Sector – issues?

This seminar included a wine reception sponsored by YMLAC's Creative Minds project and a free viewing of the Thackray Museum’s extensive medical collectionsSoundspace funded by Creative Minds.



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