I’m a Museum full of all Diseases, You’ll Learn a Lot of Things if you Come and Look in Me-ses

Our first non-human curator, the Museum of Human Disease at UNSW Faculty of Medicine was holding the reins at RealScientists this week. For a non-human entity, the museum is pretty excellent at typing, photography, walking around, cycling and eating. Keeping such mysteries of the universe aside for the moment, the museum opened its doors to the world via the magic science of twitter.

Hello. I am a tweeting museum. Please come inside me. There will be SCIENTS.

Hello. I am a tweeting museum. Please come inside me. There will be SCIENTS.


Many of the tweets this week were a comprehensive #tweetedtour of the museum, which was easily the next best thing to actually being there. Another hashtag favoured by museums is #collectionfishing, and we were treated to some absolutely fascinating catches at the end of the rod, hauled up from the depths of human diseases.



Not confined completely to the four walls of Museum of Human Disease, we saw many parts of the UNSW campus, particularly around the science precinct. Around campus we dropped in on some twitter friends and the UNSW Geology Museum too, because of course all of the museums are totally mates with each other *museum mate fist bump*

In between hosting hordes of school students, the museum also found the time to eat delicious pastries (perhaps stolen from work experience students), attempt to donate blood, learn about relativity and have a refreshing dip under a safety shower.

It was all about the pictures this week, so be sure to check out the Storifys where they are all collated (although maybe not over lunch).


A million ways to die in the east: please welcome the Museum of Human Disease to RealScientists

This week on @realscientists will be a bit different. For a change, we don’t have a solo scientist curating the account, but a museum!
The Museum of Human Disease is the medical pathology teaching collection held by the Faculty of Medicine at the University of New South Wales, in the beach-fringed eastern suburbs of Sydney, Australia. This collection, basically, is a repository of how people die. The MHD is a collection of bottled human organs and tissues, all of which have suffered damage caused by some form of disease process (pathology). museum_banner_4 Unlike many other collections of this type, the MHD is open not just to medical students but to the general public, opening their doors every day* for anybody to come in and learn. The collection is extensive, with approximately 2000 sample pots, representing between 95% & 99% of the ways Australians will die this year and in fact most years. Everything from age old menaces like tuberculosis to the modern malaise of cardiovascular disease. The Museum of Human Disease was established by Professor Donald Wilhelm, foundation Professor of Pathology at the University of New South Wales. Thanks to his foresight, and to the tireless efforts of Dr S.G. Higgins (Museum Curator of long standing), the Museum has been meticulously updated and maintained over the years to reflect the changing patterns of disease in our society.

The MHD hosts some 13,000 visitors to the Museum each year, most being senior secondary students studying Biology for the NSW Higher School Certificate (Uni entrance exam). This week the museum has some 35 different groups booked in and will run 15 tours in the week for 60-70 students each time.  On top of that, museum staff will be running a couple of Video conferences, dissections, preparing for Teacher training days and speaking to academics around campus to prepare some other events we have coming up, as well as re-writing our visitor catalogues, finalising our Zombie Apocalypse Holiday Program and giving blood. So their small team of 2.4** are kept busy, thus will be sharing the tweeting around a bit so you get an insight into how they make medical research as public and communicable*** as possible. The MHD are on Twitter and Facebook, as well as maintaining their own website. Expect to hear from Education Officers

Julia Kiss and Phil Dye, as well as museum administrator Derek Williamson, who introduces himself as follows:

Hi I am @derekjw and I run the Museum of Human Disease. I studied Zoology a very long time ago and during my studies I worked (loose definition) with some fantastic science people, from lecturers to fellow students and the one thing they taught me was that I was never meant to be a career scientist.  There are attributes that make a good/great scientist and they weren’t in me.  So the next best thing has been talking about science.  I have been doing that ever since, to absolutely anyone who will listen.

I have to add that I consider myself very fortunate to have stumbled into science and been given the freedom to stay at the periphery, talking to people doing amazing things for such a long time.
Originally from Perth in the far west of New South Wales, I had the great good fortune to travel most of WA, from shining white sands and Indian Ocean to the brilliant red of the outback and I would happily discourage everyone from going to any of it – just stay away. Now I live in Sydney.
When it comes to science and talking about it, to me there are only two reasons to do such a thing – to make the world a better place and open people’s eyes to the wonder of everything.  I hope that the work we do at the Museum, including our time here on @realscientists, reflects that.
At home I am doing a citizen science project using recently created versions of the human genome.  So far with n=2 the data is probably not very significant – except to me.  But I am learning plenty about sleep deprivation and the early onset of grumpy old man syndrome.
I will happily discuss endlessly with you on two topics – How much science/art is needed for something to be science-art and that you don’t have the right to smoke. Actually there are a few others.
What should you expect from @realscientists this week? We will retweet things we like- mostly from medical research, but some museums, some communications and other folks we like.  We will link to some of our specimen images and some details about what they represent.  We will keep you updated on the day to day affairs of the office and our meetings etc.  There should be some great quotes and questions as we get them from our secondary school and public visitors.  Maybe some of our medicine and medical science student volunteers will get the reigns to highlight a little of their life here.  Really a complete week in the life of us. We will warn you if images are not for the squeamish with this hash tag #notforthesqueamish.

Museum of Human Disease UNSW

Please welcome the team from the UNSW Museum of Human Disease to RealScientists!


*Well, not Saturdays and Sundays… or public holidays… or the two weeks over the new year holidays.. and very occasionally on Saturdays and Sundays, but not regularly

**The 0.4 is a part time person, not the result of some sort of hideous wasting disease that could result in ending up as an exhibit in the Museum

***You see what we did there, right? Cos communicable disease… oh forget it