All Stitched Up at the Hunterian Museum – a Museums at Night event review

Writer Mel Jones wrote this enthusiastic review of a Museums at Night event, and kindly agreed to let me publish it here.

A photo of a couple knitting in a room with skeletons

Stitch and Bitch in the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons

As a newcomer to London, there is such a vast array of things to see and do in the city that sometimes it’s hard to know where to start! For Museums at Night, I headed to the Hunterian Museum’s “All Stitched Up!” event, combining the talents London’s Stitch’n’Bitch craft group with surgical training.

The Hunterian Museum holds the collection of 18th century surgeon and anatomist John Hunt. Made up of over 3,500 specimens, with items ranging from a tumour-riddled bladder to an unborn dog, this museum is probably not one for the squeamish.

With five free half-hour workshops on offer, this evening couldn’t get much better. I enjoyed the contrast of visitors chatting together and learning new knitting, weaving and spinning techniques, set against the creepy background of yellowing, centuries-old flesh in jars.

The suturing workshops, overseen by real-life surgeons from the Royal College of Surgeons, were so popular that by 7 pm all sessions were booked up until 9.15, and there were overflow queues forming at the beginning of each round: the idea of stitching up a fake arm filled with red taffeta was irresistible.

A photo of a woman carefully suturing a wound in a fake arm

Learning surgical skills by practicing sutures on a fake arm

My friend and I waited impatiently with beer in hand and looked at the various surgical instruments in drawers next to the suturing room. To have had a leg amputated or a bladder stone crushed in the old days must have involved incomprehensible pain, by the look of some of the instruments on show.

Led by a slightly frazzled but very patient surgeon, our small group of 4 learnt about the different types of needles used for various stitching, the different widths of thread, and finally we got the chance to stitch up a minor scratch on a false limb. I managed three untidy stitches with immense pride. However, it took me almost 5 minutes to achieve this small feat, and I reasoned that my patient would probably be dead by the time I finished. Still, I managed more than my frustrated friend who damaged the patient’s limb with her scissors!

This interesting Museums at Night experience has ignited an obscure fascination with medical museums in me – I wish I could do this every weekend.

A photo of a woman in a stripy top

Mel Jones

Mel Jones is a writer lured by the bright lights of London. She works for a national charity by day, and explores the city in her spare time.

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Thanks, Mel, for sharing your impressions!

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