Kristin Hussey--Assistant Curator of the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons with responsibility for the Odontological Collection--has kindly agreed to write a series of guest posts for Morbid Anatomy about some of the most curious objects in her collection. Following is the first post of the series; more to come soon!
Our teeth are eloquent. They survive long after we have gone and bear witness to the details of our lives: our diet, our environment and even our health. The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons has been collecting teeth since its earliest days and its founder, John Hunter, played a crucial role not only in the development of scientific surgery but also scientific dentistry. Hunter’s collection of teeth was complimented by the loan to the College in 1909 of the Odontological Society of London’s extensive collection. Founded in 1856, Odontological Society of London provided a forum for the greatest dentists of the day to come together to discuss their cases and innovations, often gifting the most interesting examples to the Museum. The collections of the Society were formally gifted as a token of good faith in the wake of the May 1941 incendiary bomb which destroyed a large portion the Royal College of Surgeon’s collections.
For more information on specimens mentioned in this series please visit the Museum’s online catalogue at http://surgicat.rceng.ac.uk or contact Kristin directly at khussey [at] rcseng.ac.uk.Today the Odontological Collection forms a part of the Hunterian Museum but retains its early character as a compendium of the interests and debates held by Victorian dentists of the Odontological Society. From exotic animal teeth to the dentures of celebrities to dental casts of people found in London’s sideshows, the curious specimens of the collection live alongside the more clinical examples. Using the Odontological Collection as our guide, this blog series will explore the curious, fascinating and bizarre stories that can be told through our teeth.
Image: A necklace of human teeth brought back by the explorer H. Stanley from the Egyptian Sudan and presented to the Odontological Society in 1890, Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons