Talking with the Dead: Narratives from The Old Anatomy Museum

Date: 16 February 2023
Time: 13:00 - 14:00

A hybrid lecture by Evi Numen (TCD) as part of the Medical and Health Humanities Seminar Series. Medical museums begun their existence as galleries of wonder, a way to celebrate God’s creations through collecting and publicly accessible display. As medical knowledge and teaching developed, medical collections moved from this quasi-religious domain to establishments of scientific research and education out of the public eye. The advent of modern imaging and other teaching technologies pushed some of these difficult to upkeep collections into obscurity all together. In recent years, they are coming out of the shadows, bringing with them some difficult questions and inconvenient narratives, entwined as they are with stories and practices of a colonialist past. Others complicate our understandings of human diversity, ability, and consent, and invite us to bridge the gap between specimen and visitor. This lecture investigates that transition by tracing the past of the Old Anatomy Museum and discussing its future. How did medical education practices evolve from body-snatching to body donation? What lessons can we learn from a 200-year-old skeleton in a cabinet? What can an illustration of a syphilis sufferer tell us about public health today? These are some of the questions we are called upon to grapple with, as we embark on a project to establish a medical heritage centre around a collection that spans 300 years of medical education in Ireland, and includes human remains, anatomical models, medical illustrations, and striking portraits of patients and physicians.

Evi Numen is the Curator of the Old Anatomy Museum of the School of Medicine of Trinity College Dublin. Since 2018 she has been working in a project to catalogue, conserve, and curate the medical heritage collection of the School of Medicine. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. From 2009 to 2016, she held the position of Exhibitions Manager & Designer at the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia from 2009 to 2016. During this time, Numen designed history of medicine exhibitions at the Mütter Museum and curated their medicine-themed art shows. Her museum photography has been published in numerous outlets including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Nature.

Her research interests include 19th century dissection, medical museum practices, and end-of-life rituals. She is the founder and curator of ‘Thanatography,’ an online exhibition of contemporary mourning art and writing. In recent years she has curated virtual exhibitions featuring the collection of the Old Anatomy Museum and is currently engaged in an ambitious virtual exhibition project on the history of pandemics in Ireland, funded by the Heritage Council. Please register here. This is a hybrid event; in-person attendance is limited. Please indicate if you have any access requirements, such as ISL/English interpreting, so that we can facilitate you in attending this event. Contact:

Campus Location

Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute




One-time event

Type of Event

Lectures and Seminars,Public


Postgrad,Faculty & Staff,Public

Contact Name

Prof Desmond O'Neill

Contact Email




Galbraith Seminar Room


Free but registration is required

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