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Specimen of the Week 385: UCL skulls

Hannah LCornish12 July 2019

This blog was written by Lily Garnett, volunteer at the UCL Pathology Museum

UCL.16.009 and UCL.16.018 are skulls. Like any human face, although they have the same features, they look different. They have both been processed for medical teaching, with cuts and hooks to reveal the inner workings of the cranium.

In terms of provenance, the history of these two individuals remains a mystery. The UCL prefix to their number indicates that they were found within the collection and their history prior to this is unknown. Before accurate plastic models became available in the 1990s, real human bones were used for teaching.

But where do you get a skeleton from?

Skulls UCL.16.009 and UCL.16.018

Skulls UCL.16.009 and UCL.16.018

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Specimen of the Week 383: Fracture of the odontoid process

Hannah LCornish14 June 2019

This blog was written by Lily Garnett, volunteer at the UCL Pathology Museum

These human remains tell a true story of murder, attempted suicide and the understanding of mental health in 1855.

It is rare for human remains within pathology collections to bear the name of the individual they were once a part of in life. In historic collecting this is most probably due to a collector’s medical interest in a pathology as a ‘specimen’, disassociating it from the reality that it was once part of a person with feelings, thoughts and family. Moreover, in the past the maintaining of deceased individuals often went unmonitored. Until as late as a public enquiry in 1999, with a focus being on the Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, the vast majority were unaware that hospitals were retaining patients’ organs without consent. This ultimately led to the Human Tissue Act 2004, which is monitored by the Human Tissue Authority. Now, any institution holding human remains that are less than 100 years old since the death of an individual legally require a license.

D.15 Fracture of the odontoid process caused by a bullet

D.15 Fracture of the odontoid process caused by a bullet (bullet visible top left)

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