|Lister artefacts set to go on display|
|Friday, 25 November 2011|
The Museum’s exhibition, due to open in February 2012, is an opportunity for the College to pull out many of the interesting items from the collections and explore some of the themes that dominated Lister’s life. We have many artefacts associated with the great man, from his letters to Sir William Watson Cheyne, to his personal surgical instruments.
In addition, the exhibition will feature items loaned from Edinburgh University and private collections. Much has been written about Lord Lister so we are interested in ensuring that new information is included in the exhibition. Lister’s religious convictions are of great interest; he was one of the few Edinburgh surgeons not to be involved in the Crimean War (1853-1856).
“Lister saw the vast importance of the discoveries of Pasteur. He saw it because he was watching on the heights, and he was watching there alone.” - Sir Thomas Clifford Allbutt
Obviously, no film exists of Lister but we are keen to try to give a flavour of his personality and to that end we have commissioned a short dialogue of an actor talking about the discovery of the antiseptic technique so that visitors get a sense of the man. It may not be well-known that Lister always used the personal form ‘Thee and thou’ throughout his life, betraying his Quaker upbringing.
The opportunity to develop ‘interactives’ to bring understanding to young people will be in the form of two additions to the galleries. We are looking at Lister’s vascular experiments with a horse. It is surprising that he went to extraordinary lengths to support his theories. In this case, he built a large contraption so that the horse could be studied standing, on its side, and upside down. With the horse in these positions he was able to demonstrate arterial contraction. Microscopes will also form part of the interactive element of the exhibition. Joseph Jackson Lister, Lister’s father was a microscope pioneer and it seems fitting that we have an interactive that demonstrates his discoveries.
Apart from his personal items, we will be putting Lister’s achievement in context with those of other scientists. Pasteur, Koch and Semmelweiss were all working on theories in the latter half of the nineteenth century in what was a period of monumental change in medical practice. The term ‘Watching on the Heights’ refers to Lister’s ability to take account of their developments in science and form his own theories from them. It was Sir Thomas Clifford Allbutt who stated, “Lister saw the vast importance of the discoveries of Pasteur. He saw it because he was watching on the heights, and he was watching there alone.”
Christopher Henry, Director of Heritage