I first visited the wonderful Amsterdam-based Vrolik Museum in 2007, when I was gathering material for the Anatomical Theatre, an exhibition exploring depictions of the body, disease, and death in medical museums of the Western world. The museum has has just reopened after a year-long closure for renovation and refurbishment; I asked friend and curator Dr. Laurens de Rooy to send in some photos and write a brief report about the museum and its redesign especially for the readers of this blog:
The Vrolik Museum is named after 19th Dutch anatomists Gerard (1775–1859) and Willem Vrolik (1801–1863). Their collection includes many zoological and comparative anatomical specimens, as well as many pathological specimens such as skeletons with rickets and other diseases of the bone. Since the redesign of the museum, these collections are now on display together for the first time since Willem Vrolik's death.
In the modern showcases you will find an overview of normal and abnormal anatomy-- e.g; a large series of the development of the brain--and of embryological development, siamese twins, cyclopes, development of the heart, dwarfism, anatomy of the limbs, corset livers etc etc. Along the walls is an overview of the long history of the collection, many of which displayed in original showcases like the 18th century Hovius cabinet (top image) and the 19th century Vroliks cabinet (images 2 and 3).
The Museum Vrolik is open on weekdays from 10 am to 5 pm. Entrance is free but we appreciate a voluntary admission of about 5 euros pp. All texts are both in English and Dutch. We provide a so called 'top-exhibits-tour' a little book with 30 highlights of the museum, including some congenital malformations, bezoar stones, bladder stones, corset livers, the lion that belonged to King Louis Napoleon, the skull of a man that got hit by a horse etc etc.For more information about the museum, go to www.museumvrolik.nl. Via this site you may also book a guided tour.
Photos top to bottom:
- Hovius cabinet. cabinet from 1773 with pathologies of the bone, collected by physician Jacob Hovius (potrait on top of the cabinet)
- Vrolik's cabinet. Early 19th century cabinet of the old Museum Vrolikianum, showing the collection of comparative anatomy of father and son Vrolik (left portrait of Willem Vrolik and part of the collection of congenital malformations in animals; right: portrait of Gerard Vrolik and collection of human pathology and botany)
- Overview of the museum. Left and right: showcases with anatomy of head and neck and of skull, spine and thorax, in the center: a so called "blown skull" or "beauchene skull", all cranial bones have been taken apart and mounted separately; to the back; Vroliks cabinet
- The collection of animal skeletons and skulls of the original Vrolik collection, presented as a long chain or stairway from least perfect to most perfect. Father and son Vrolik did not believe in the possibility of evolution. All animals were created in their view according to a greater plan. The big animal skeleton top-left: the lion of king Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, king of Holland between 1806 and 1810.
- Human trunk with the heart and great vessels, modeled in red and blue wax.