The Medicine in Society collection consists of some 7000 objects that reflect aspects of the changes in Victorian medical practice and research over the last 120 years.

This diverse collection is of national significance, telling many important Victorian and Australian stories of medicine, medical research and public health. It takes in items such as dental and surgical instruments, food models, prostheses, pharmacy furniture, medicinal herbs and psychiatric items.

Significant items:

  • General medical and surgical equipment used by Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop after the Second World War.
  • Research equipment and medicinal samples from the internationally significant Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL) (1918-84).
  • A 19th-century wooden medicine chest with compartments containing a range of pharmaceuticals.
  • Prostheses and body parts from the early 20th century to the present, many designed and manufactured in Australia.
  • 19th-century medical equipment, including a blood-letting instrument, pill-making slabs and rollers, a powder stretcher and straightjackets.
  • Equipment from the Polack dental surgery in Melbourne (1930-85), including teeth-cleaning powders, samples of false teeth, anaesthesia equipment and various dental instruments.
  • Equipment from the Whitehead medical practice in Melbourne (1935-86), including a circumcision clamp, mouth gags and catheters, as well as a variety of gynaecological devices.
  • Preventative Medicine Exhibition models from the museum (1930s-1960s), including a mosquito model for the malaria exhibit (1949).
  • Cochlear implant (bionic ear) developed by Graeme Clark and his team.
  • Examples of some of the first lithium-powered pacemakers in the world, developed by Australian scientists at Teletronics and Medtronic.
  • The Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital Collection, 1904-1996.
  • Objects demonstrating contemporary uses of biotechnology in medicine.
  • The first DNA sequencer used in Australia, the ABI 370.
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