Maude Abbott Medical Museum

The Maude Abbott Medical Museum in the Strathcona Building of McGill University in Montreal "is a repository of materials dating from the early 19th century that documents the study and practice of Medicine at McGill University and its associated teaching hospitals"1.


"The Museum collection originated around the time of the founding of the Montreal General Hospital (c1822) and the Montreal Medical Institute (1823/24) (the forerunner of the McGill University Medical Faculty). In fact, the most famous artifact in the collection is the Holmes heart, a specimen procured at autopsy in 1822 by Dr. Andrew Holmes, first Dean of Medicine at McGill. A significant proportion of the specimens in the Museum was gathered in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including several hundred by William Osler during the eight years he spent as pathologist at the Montreal General Hospital. Many illustrate diseases or disease processes, such as syphilis, extrapulmonary tuberculosis, rickets and congenital cardiac anomalies, encountered uncommonly today in an untreated state in “developed” countries"2.


"The Faculty of Medicine established an official Department of Pathology in 1892. Among the responsibilities of its first Chair, Dr. George Adami, was the curatorship of a museum that would house the specimens that had been collected to that time. However, Adami apparently found his other responsibilities more demanding, and he named Maude Abbott Assistant Curator in 1898. During a trip to the Army Medical Museum in Washington in 1898 to learn about the system of classification at that museum, Abbott met Osler who told her:

“That McGill Museum is great place. As soon as you go home, look up the British Medical Journal for 1893 and read the article by Mr. Jonathan Hutchison on “A Clinical Museum”. That is what he calls his museum in London and it is the greatest place I know for teaching students in. Pictures of life and death together. Wonderful – you read it and see what you can do.”


Abbott took these words to heart and enthusiastically began developing the museum. After order had been introduced to the collection, she began using the specimens for teaching medical students. At first, this was done on an ad hoc basis. However, in 1904, museum demonstrations became a compulsory part of the medical curriculum, and in fact became so popular that some students would return every morning at 8 A.M. to review the material of the previous day. Abbott also developed a system of museum classification and began entering in a museum log book both historical specimens and new ones which she acquired from physicians at McGill. Osler was particularly impressed with Abbott’s work, writing in 1905 that the McGill Medical Museum would be '…a model to other museums'"3.

  • Photos by Luca Borghi ti.supmacinu|ihgrob.l#| (July 2017), courtesy of Richard Fraser and Joan O'Malley (Maude Abbott Medical Museum)

The Museum is currently closed (until Spring 2018), due to renovation works.

Related items:
* “Maude Abbott”(1936?) by Mary Alexandra Bell Eastlake
* Starr-Edwards prosthetic heart valves

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License