Guest Post: Emma Black explains how Surgeons’ Hall Museum secured author Sandy Gall for Museums at Night

Today’s guest post comes from Emma Black, who works on events and marketing at Surgeons’ Hall Museum, Edinburgh.

A man and boy handling animal skulls in a museum

A young visitor discovers the handling collection (c) Surgeons’ Hall Museum

When Culture24 announced their ‘Authors for Museums at Night‘ programme, bringing writers into Museums at Night 2012 venues in partnership with the Reading Agency, an exciting opportunity arose for Surgeons’ Hall Museum.

For me, the author and publication that stood out on the list was writer and broadcaster Sandy Gall and his recent publication The War Against the Taliban: Why it all went wrong in Afghanistan.

After receiving the initial notification, I sent an email to Nick Stockman, and thought ‘Well, at least I’ve tried, but the competition for this talk will be really high!’

I received a very quick response, then Nick and I began to discuss the connections between The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, where Surgeons’ Hall Museum belongs, the ethos of Museums at Night and the work of Mr Gall.

Our collections are a very good fit with Mr Gall’s subject area. Besides his work in journalism, Sandy and his wife Eleanor established the charity Sandy Gall’s Afghanistan Appeal, which has been treating disabled Afghans and providing support to people who have lost limbs in combat since 1986.

Our Museum houses one of the largest and most historic collections of surgical pathology in the World. A large section of the collection pertains to military surgery, with instruments and specimens from conflicts including the Napoleonic War, American Civil War and World War I.

The collections demonstrate the debilitating illnesses and tragic loss of life which continues to happen in situations of conflict and the continuing medical innovations that are needed to deal with these causalities.

A group of children holding skulls in a museum

Children discover pathology at Surgeons’ Hall Museum (c) Surgeons’ Hall Museum

Besides the links between our collections, an important factor for our selection was our demonstrable enthusiasm to engage the public in historic and topical subjects.

I have been working on the Museum’s public engagement since 2009; we now offer a diverse range of activities and in two years our visitor figures have doubled and we have built a database of loyal supporters who regularly attend our events.

Our daytime and evening events on 19th May really demonstrate our diversity! We will be starting off with ‘Casualty 1852,’ an afternoon of ‘casualty’ stage make up by Metamorface, and a unique 19th century diagnosis by our resident Victorian surgeon, Mr Alexander Barbour. This event also features 2 for 1 tickets and Museum collections, funded by Museums Galleries Scotland.

Finally, we’ll have a good tidy up before Mr Gall’s Lecture begins at 6pm!


A woman with blonde hairEmma Black has worked on Public Engagement for Surgeons’ Hall Museum since 2009. She previously worked in Adaptive and Neural Computation at the University of Edinburgh whilst completing a first degree in Ancient History and Classics, and a Masters degree in Classical Art and Archaeology.


Thanks, Emma!

If you’d like to write a guest post or case study for this blog about any aspect of event planning or marketing in arts or heritage venues, please drop me a line at or call me on 01273 623336.

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