Hunterian Museum, Main Hall

Hunterian Museum, Main Hall

Hunterian Museum, Antonine Wall

Hunterian Museum, Antonine Wall


The University of Glasgow's Hunterian is the oldest museum in Scotland. It covers The Hunterian Museum, The Hunterian Art Gallery, The Mackintosh House, The Zoology Museum and The Anatomy Museum, all located in various buildings on the main campus of the University in the west end of Glasgow. Founded in 1807, The Hunterian is Scotland's oldest public museum and home to one of the largest collections outside the National Museums. The Hunterian is one of the leading university museums in the world and its collections have been Recognised as a Collection of National Significance. It is one of Scotland’s most important cultural assets.‌


The Hunterian is the legacy of Dr William Hunter (1718 - 1783), a pioneering obstetrician and teacher with a passion for collecting. Born locally, and a student at the University of Glasgow, Hunter found fame and fortune in London as physician to Queen Charlotte and as a teacher of anatomy. He lavished his wealth on building up the vast private collection which he bequeathed to the University in 1783, along with money to create a suitable museum. The Hunterian opened its doors in 1807, making it Scotland’s oldest museum and giving it a unique place within Scotland’s cultural heritage. The Hunterian has undergone many changes over the years. The first Hunterian Museum, built with William Hunter’s bequest and filled with his collections, opened in 1807. It was located in the University of Glasgow’s first site, in the East End near Glasgow Cathedral. The classical style building, designed by William Stark, was open to the public from 12.00pm until 2.00pm every day except Sunday.


At first the entire collection was housed together, and displayed in the packed conditions common in museums of that time, but significant sections were later moved away to other parts of the University. The Zoological collections are now housed within the Graham Kerr Building, the art collections in The Hunterian Art Gallery, and Hunter's library containing some 10,000 printed books and 650 manuscripts, finally received in 1807, in Glasgow University Library. The University`s Librarian Professor Lockhart Muirhead became the first Keeper of the Hunterian Museum in 1823. Hunter’s anatomical collections are housed in the Allen Thomson Building, and his pathological preparations at the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow. The money to build the museum, and the core of its original collections, came from the bequest of the Scottish anatomist and scientist William Hunter, who died in London in 1783. As well as his medical collections, which arose from his own work, Hunter collected very widely, often assisted by his many royal and aristocratic patrons. He and his agents scoured Europe for coins, minerals, paintings and prints, ethnographic materials, books and manuscripts, as well as insects and other biological specimens. Hunter's eclectic bequest forms the core of the collections, but have grown considerably, and now include some of the most important collections of work by artists such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh and James McNeill Whistler, as well as superb geological, zoological, anatomical, archaeological, ethnographic and scientific instrument collections.


Archaeology, World Cultures and Historical. The Hunterian houses the finest body of Roman material in the west of Scotland, from the periods of military occupation in the first and second centuries AD, including many 'distance slabs', altars and gravestones from forts on the Antonine Wall. There is also a major collection of artefacts from excavations at brochs and other settlements of the Scottish Iron Age. Artefacts presented by local collector A. H. Bishop in 1914 and 1951 cover the development of human activity in Scotland and western Europe from the earliest hunters and fishermen to medieval times. Smaller bodies of material illustrate the early civilisations of Egypt and the Mediterranean world. The internationally important ethnographic collection has its origin in ‘first contact’ objects acquired by William Hunter from the pioneering voyages of Captain James Cook to the South Seas and the north-west coast of North America in 1769-80. It also includes Pacific Islands material acquired by missionaries in the 19th century. The historical collection includes medieval and modern pottery, Scottish and English glass and pewter, medallions by James and William Tassie, and death-masks.


Coins and Medals. The Hunterian houses one of the world’s great coin collections, containing 70,000 coins, medals, tokens and related objects. About half is the original collection of Dr William Hunter put together at the end of the 18th century, when it was second only in importance to the French Royal Collection. Today it is Scotland’s premier collection in this subject. The collection contains Ancient Greek, Roman, Medieval and Modern coins as well as medals from the Renaissance to contemporary Scotland. Many of these are unique or extremely rare and most are in superb condition. The collection is extensively used for teaching and research, and several catalogues covering its major holdings have been published.


Medicine and Anatomy. These collections are unique medical teaching material amassed by William Hunter in his career as anatomist, obstetrician and doctor. They differ from other parts of The Hunterian collection in that they represent things which Hunter and his school made and used professionally rather than acquired for leisure interests. The collections comprise wet preparations of human tissues and organs, skeletal material and some animal taxidermy specimens. Both Pathology and Anatomy also have considerable amounts of post-Hunter material and this includes comparative (animal) anatomy specimens, fine 19th century wax models and specimens made using recent techniques such as corrosion and plastination. Some of the most striking specimens in the Anatomy collection are those associated with William Hunter’s research leading to his most significant contributions to the advancement of medicine. Outstanding examples include the series of life size plaster casts of dissections showing the pregnant uterus, as illustrated in Hunter’s great work, 'The Anatomy of the Gravid Uterus Exhibited in Figures' (1774). Hunter contributed a great deal to the understanding of the lymphatic system and his mercury-injected preparations of lymphatic tissue are both beautiful and illuminating. The Pathology material has elegant preparations particularly in the areas of birth defects and infectious diseases such as syphilis and tuberculosis that were commonly contracted, poorly understood, incurable and a challenge to the medical profession at that time.


Anatomy Museum. The Museum Hall was designed by Sir John James Burnet (1857-1938) and opened in 1902. Burnet was a distinguished Glasgow architect, and designed many well-known buildings in the city and elsewhere. The ground floor of the Museum has six bays with cases around areas for individual study. The hall is surrounded by a gallery at first floor level. The roof is lit from the north pitch for optimum daylight. The gallery houses the historical anatomical collections of William Hunter (1718-1783) and of John Cleland (Regius Professor 1877 – 1909) while the downstairs is devoted to specimens and models to support student learning and to special exhibitions. A number of the anatomical models on display are also of historical interest. The names in gold lettering around the gallery are former Regius Professors of Anatomy. Professor James Jeffray was the Regius Professor 1790 - 1848, a record of tenure for a medical chair. In 1818, he was successful in petitioning for the Regius Chairs of Anatomy and Botany to be separated. Jeffray was a popular teacher of Anatomy and had a class of about 200 students. Jeffray is remembered for both his invention of a surgical chain saw and his attempt to revive the body of a hanged murderer, Matthew Clydesdale, by means of an electric current. In the Museum look out for The Clydesdale Chair, a chair on which the murderer's body is said to have been placed.


Rocks and Minerals. The Hunterian has over 120,000 rock and mineral specimens in its collections, as well as around 1500 cut gemstones, and 70 meteorites. The mineral collections include several very important older collections including those of William Hunter (one of the few surviving 18th century mineral collections), Thomas Brown of Lanfine (Scottish and world minerals), Frederick Eck (South American, and world minerals), James ‘Paraffin’ Young (world-wide), Frank Rutley (world-wide; the author of Rutley’s Elements of Mineralogy), and Alexander Thoms (mostly Scottish). Particular areas of strength include Leadhills-Wanlockhead minerals, Scottish Carboniferous zeolites, greenockite, old East European mining localities, old South American mining districts, Australian gold deposits, and gemstones. The rock collections include much material resulting from the research activities of University of Glasgow geologists over the past two centuries. Particular strengths include Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands; Iceland, Jan Mayen and Spitzbergen; J. W. Gregory collections including Yunnan, Burma, and Australia, meteorites (including the High Possil meteorite which fell in Glasgow in 1804); G.W. Tyrrell’s collections from Russia, Iceland, and Scotland; building stones, Alex Herriot’s collection of magnificent thin-sections and rocks, and a huge range of other research, teaching and display rocks from around the world.


Dinosaurs and Fossils. Although the Hunterian Museum does not hold a vast collection of dinosaurs, it does have a number of quite important specimens. The Hunterian is actively involved in researching Scottish dinosaurs and has a number of key specimens in its collections. Scotland’s first dinosaur footprint found in 1982, the first dinosaur track way and several dinosaur bones can be seen here. Specimens collected at the beginning of the 1800’s by Gideon Mantel (which found their way into the Thomas Brown of Lanfine Collection) came to The Hunterian in the late 1800’s. Gideon Mantel was one of the first dinosaur researchers and discoverers and The Hunterian has several pieces collected by him including Iguanodon and Megalosaurus teeth. The fossil collections are amongst the largest in the UK and were built up over the last 200 years from departmental research and teaching collections. A significant number of specimens have been added by donation from collectors around the world. One of the earliest published collections of fossils from Scotland is in the Hunterian Museum. The Reverend David Ure collection was published in 1793 in his volume entitled "The History of Rutherglen and East-Kilbride". The fossils are of Carboniferous age and include the earliest description of fossil ostracodes. Another key collection is that of Alfred Leeds whose vast collection of Jurassic marine vertebrates came to the Hunterian Museum in 1919. This included plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, marine crocodiles, and a large specimen of Leedsichthys; the worlds largest fish. The Hunterian trilobite collection is particularly strong and has recently been added to by the bequest of the collector, and University of Glasgow research assistant George Rae. Some of the fossils in his collection of over 6,000 are exquisitely prepared and of immense research value. The palaeontological collections at the Hunterian Museum include over 10,000 fossil plants, 10,000 vertebrates, 50,000 corals, 5,000 graptolites, 10,000 trilobites, 6,000 other arthropods, 40,000 molluscs, 10,000 microfossils, 5,000 brachiopods, 9,000 echinoderms, and several thousand type and figured fossils.


Scientific Instruments. The Hunterian is home to a diverse collection of scientific instruments dating from the early 18th century to recent technology from the late 20th century. The earliest apparatus and equipment, which pre-date the formation of The Hunterian in 1807, are teaching and research instruments once used at the University of Glasgow. Many objects come from William Hunter's own lifetime, when the Professor of Natural Philosophy (the subject now known as Physics) was John Anderson, nicknamed 'Jolly Jack Phosphorus' by his students. Perhaps the most significant piece from this era is a model Newcomen steam powered atmospheric engine that James Watt tried to repair in 1763. It was his failure to coax the machine back to optimum capacity that sparked his invention of the separate condenser, the component that led to rapid expansion in British industry. The collection's considerable 19th century holdings centre around the experimental apparatus and patented inventions of Sir William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), and the material given to him by contemporaries such as Hermann von Helmholtz, and James Joule. In the 1870s, Kelvin created the first purpose built teaching laboratory, which was considered highly revolutionary. The medical instruments at The Hunterian include capsule collections such as the British Medical Ultrasound Collection, the Glasgow College of Nursing, the Royal Infirmary Lister Ward and the surgical equipment of medical pioneers such as William Hunter and William Macewen. Material from the 20th century includes items associated with the chemist Frederick Soddy (father of isotopic theory), and a large group of mechanical and electronic calculators.


University. The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451, making it Britain’s fourth oldest university. The Hunterian is home to the memorabilia of famous staff and students. Star items include the University’s silver-gilt mace dating from 1465, the silver Loving Cup and Quaich, the 18th century Blackstone Chair used for oral examinations, and the model steam engine which led the young mathematical instrument-maker James Watt to the invention of the ‘separate condenser’, sparking off the Industrial Revolution, as well as medical and scientific equipment used in teaching over the centuries. There are also fitments and fragments from the structure of the 'Old College' built in the 17th century and demolished in 1870.


Zoology. The Zoology Collections represent most of the major groups of animals but with particular strength in the insects. Of the 600,000 specimens, 90% are insects. The historical core of the collection is William Hunter’s natural history material of which shells, insects and corals survive today. Important additions to entomology were made by the acquisition of the extensive J. J. F. X. King (1923) and T. G. Bishop (1933) collections. University staff in the Department of Zoology added significant material in the areas of economic, medical and regional (Scottish) entomology. Along with the entomology collections, and reflecting its growth as a University teaching and reference collection, there is broad coverage of the animal kingdom with good mammalian osteology and a spirit collection of several thousand specimens representing mainly invertebrates and the lower vertebrates. Other notable study collections include John Graham Kerr’s South American lungfish, local Mollusca, Himalayan bird skins and the Hansell collection of animal artefacts (bird and insect nests and other constructions).


The Antonine Wall: Rome's Final Frontier. Built around AD 142 in the reign of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius, the Antonine Wall ran coast-to-coast across Scotland from the Clyde to the Firth of Forth. This permanent gallery at the Hunterian Museum showcases the collection of spectacular monumental sculpture and other Roman artefacts recovered from the Wall, including richly sculptured distance slabs, unique to the frontiers of the Roman Empire. 'The Antonine Wall: Rome's Final Frontier' explores the biography of this important Roman monument and through The Hunterian's rich collections investigates four key themes: The building of the Wall, its architecture and impact on the landscape; the role of the Roman army on the frontier, the life and lifestyle of its soldiers; the cultural interaction between Roman and indigenous peoples, and evidence for local resistance; and the abandonment of the Wall and the story of its rediscovery over the last 350 years. The display also reflects the story of over three centuries of collecting and research by the University of Glasgow on the World Heritage Site. 'The Antonine Wall: Rome’s Final Frontier' is located in the Hunterian Museum entrance gallery.

Hunterian Museum, Lady Shepenhor

Hunterian Museum, Lady Shepenhor

Hunterian Museum, Fossil Display

Hunterian Museum, Fossil Display

A Healing Passion: Medicine in Glasgow Past and Present. The Hunterian was built on the founding bequest of Dr William Hunter whose medical collections were the core of his career, museum and success. ‘A Healing Passion’ is a permanent display dedicated to medicine in Glasgow and draws on these unique collections to reflect the illustrious heritage of the region.‌ Glasgow and the West of Scotland continue to play an important part in the history of medicine and ground-breaking medical research, producing many key figures and significant achievements. ‘A Healing Passion’ explores major and lesser known figures in medicine and showcases their achievements covering anatomy, pathology, surgery, obstetrics and public health. Of particular interest are some of William Hunter’s original 18th century anatomical and pathological specimens, Joseph Lister’s carbolic spray, some of the first X-Ray films made by John MacIntyre, and one of the first ultrasound scanners ever developed. The adjacent 'Science Showcase' features medical research topics from time to time. 'A Healing Passion' is located on the balcony level of the Hunterian Museum main hall, as a companion to the ‘Lord Kelvin: Revolutionary Scientist’ display.


Lord Kelvin: Revolutionary Scientist. This permanent display is based around the life and work of William Thomson, or Lord Kelvin, Glasgow's greatest scientist. ‘Lord Kelvin: Revolutionary Scientist’ uses The Hunterian's world-famous collection of historical items and original scientific instruments to bring alive the story of a unique and humble man. Along with such luminaries as Darwin and Lister, Lord Kelvin was a giant in the world of science, and his achievements make him one of Glasgow’s most famous citizens. Although born in Belfast, he came to Glasgow at a very young age and made the city his life-long home. ‘Lord Kelvin’ was the title William Thomson took when he was made the first ‘science lord’. He taught at the University of Glasgow for fifty-three years and became its Chancellor. In Glasgow his contribution to safety at sea was probably most profoundly appreciated because of the shipbuilding and international trading connections. Lord Kelvin still affects the way science is taught today because of demonstration methods and laboratory projects. He almost invented the modern research degree. A great theorist he was also a very practical man; the death of his nephew at sea led to a lifelong fascination with safety at sea; his compass was adopted by most of the world’s navies; his tide gauge was so good it remained unsurpassed for many years. He solved the problems involved in laying the first transatlantic telegraph cables and conveying messages, thus paving the way for the global communications highway. Every mobile phone and computer user owes him a debt. We even name a system of temperature and make of refrigerator after him. The exhibition is located on the balcony level of the Hunterian Museum main hall.


The Mackintosh House. The Hunterian Art Gallery houses one of the most important collections of the work of Scottish architect, designer and artist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) and his artist-wife, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh (1864-1933).‌ The Mackintosh House is a meticulous reassemblage of the principal interiors from the Mackintoshes’ Glasgow home. The couple lived at 78 Southpark Avenue (originally 6 Florentine Terrace) from 1906 to 1914. Substantial alterations were made in 1906 as Mackintosh remodelled the proportions and natural lighting of the Victorian end-of-terrace house. The principal interiors were decorated in his distinctive style, remarkable then, and now, for the disciplined austerity of the furnishings and decoration. The house was demolished in the early 1960s but the original fixtures were preserved and reassembled, complete with the contents, as an integral part of the Hunterian Art Gallery. The architects took pains to ensure that the sequence of rooms exactly reflected the original. Virtually the same views and effects of natural light are enjoyed as 78 Southpark Avenue stood only some 100 metres away. Other areas of the original house - cloakroom, kitchen, bathroom, and secondary bedrooms - have not been incorporated. The interiors, completed in 1981, have been furnished with the Mackintoshes' own furniture - all to Mackintosh's design - and decorated as closely as possible to the original. The selection of bric à brac, fitted carpets, curtains and other soft furnishings was based on contemporary descriptions of the house and photographs of Mackintosh interiors of the period. Please note, last admission to The Mackintosh House is at 4.15pm (3.15pm on Sundays).


William Hunter: Man, Medic and Collector. This permanent exhibition tells the story of Dr William Hunter, the Scottish obstetrician, teacher, collector and founder of the Hunterian Museum. The display explores Hunter’s personal and professional life and highlights both his passion for collecting and his hugely successful career as a royal physician, outstanding teacher of anatomy and surgery and pioneering scientific researcher. For a fascinating and enlightening biography of William Hunter and some of his many achievements, please click here.


Country Surgeon Micro Museum. The Micro Museum is located in the Wolfson Medical building and tells the story of James Bouglas (1798 – 1882). He worked for nearly sixty years as a country doctor in the town of Carluke, carrying out surgery and tending to the sick. There are two parts to the exhibition – a large display case which tells the story of James Bouglas’ life and two identical multimedia display screens which cover his timeline, student life and tools of the trade. Visitors can discover a fascinating account of traditional treatments, amputations, surgery in the home, tackling disease and pills and potions.


At Kelvin Hall, the University has created The Hunterian Collections Study Centre which offers a state-of-the-art environment for research, teaching and training. These unique facilities allow the University of Glasgow to build on its international reputation for collections and object-based pedagogies, offering much greater access to the collections while forging new academic and educational practice. The Hunterian Collections Study Centre is the first purpose-designed facility in the Higher Education sector offering innovative object-based research, teaching and training for a wide educational audience. It features a state-of-the-art central collections depot, object study rooms, teaching labs, conservation and digitisation studios and dedicated conference suite. The Collections Study Centre operates as an Object Laboratory, in which museum collections and objects are selected and delivered into purpose-designed teaching and study spaces according to academic, educational or curatorial training purposes. The Centre will service classes and research activities drawn from across the University of Glasgow and its partners, at all levels from undergraduate through postgraduate and lifelong learning, encouraging greater use of the collections and enriching arts, humanities and sciences education. External researchers and interested members of the public can request access to the collections by appointment.


Currently, wheelchair users, or people with mobility impairments, can access all areas of the Hunterian Museum by lift. In the Hunterian Art Gallery, access is by ramp to ground floor, and then by lift to the basement and first floor Gallery 2. Because of the nature of The Mackintosh House, disabled access is limited to the orientation room, hall and dining room. There is limited wheelchair access to the Hunterian Zoology Museum. A platform lift has been installed at the front door of the Graham Kerr Building which will allow visitors to access part of the Zoology Museum. Wheelchair users are advised to make an appointment to visit by contacting them by phone (0141 330 4772). Both the Hunterian Museum and the Hunterian Art Gallery have toilets for disabled people. There is no disabled toilet in the Graham Kerr Building. The nearest facility is in the adjacent Wolfson Link Building. Assistance dogs are welcome. Exhibits cannot be audio described. Tactile signage for exhibits is not available. Touch tours are not available. There is a hearing assistance system. The hearing system is a portable loop.


Location : University of Glasgow, University Ave, Glasgow G12 8QQ

Transport: Charing Cross (Scot Rail) then bus (15). Subway : Hillhead is closeto museum. Bus Routes : SimpliCity4 and 4A and 15 stop outside.

Opening Times Hunterian Museum : Tuesday to Saturday, 10.00 to 17.00; Sundays 11.00 to 16.00

Opening Times Hunterian Art Gallery and The Mackintosh House : Tuesday to Saturday, 10.00 to 17.00; Sundays 11.00 to 16.00

Opening Times Hunterian Zoology Museum : Monday to Friday, 09.00 to 17.00

Opening Times Anatomy Museum : By appointment only

Opening Times Country Surgeon Micro Museum : Monday to Friday, 09.00 to 17.00

Tickets : Hunterian Museum, Zoology Museum, Country Surgeon Micro Museum - Free

Tickets Mackintosh House : Adults £5.00; Concessions £3.00;  Children (under 18) Free

Tel. : 0141 330 4221