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Experience medical history up close

The Collection of the History of Medicine and Pharmacy at Kiel University spans the arc from historical exhibits to current research - from the pharmacy toolbox to modern microbiome research.

Old equipment and copper boilers
© Lorenz Oberdörster, Medizin- und Pharmaziehistorische Sammlung

The distillation and hearth plant was used for the production of the medicines.

The banner of the current special exhibition points the way to the Collection of History of Medicine and Pharmacy in Brunswiker Strasse. "Mikrobiom" can be seen from afar, and as you get closer you can also read the subtitle: "Der Mensch ist nicht allein!" ("Man is not alone!").

Until the end of February 2019, works by students of the Muthesius School of Art, created in cooperation with the Schleswig-Holstein Cluster of Excellence in Inflammation Research, can be seen here. The term microbiome refers to the totality of all bacteria and microorganisms that live in and on humans. Disorders of this ecosystem are associated with chronic diseases. In many projects, the cluster is investigating the bacterial colonization of, for example, the intestine or skin.

The exhibition aims to bring this research to the public. The students' works of art visualize the interaction of human cells and microorganisms by means of photography, films, posters, comics, paintings and installations. Among other things, visitors can touch various surfaces that are coated with special papers to imitate the raised structures of diseased skin. In this way, it is possible to understand how skin affected by psoriasis, for example, feels.

The museum is spread over two floors, most of which are occupied by the current exhibition. A smaller area of the museum shows preparations of pathologically altered organs and tissue. These provide a glimpse into the history of medical education. The collection comprises more than 700 wet preparations, which were made from the 19th century until about 1960 in the Pathological Institute of the University for the education of students.

Woman in a room with old equipment.
© pur.pur

Eva Fuhry has been in charge of the Medical and Pharmaceutical History Collection at Kiel University since 2004 and can tell exciting stories about many devices, instruments and preparations.

A selection of the body parts stored in glass containers is exhibited. The organs are preserved according to a colour-preserving method developed by Leonhard Jores. Jores headed the Kiel Institute of Pathology from 1918 to 1934, "His method is still used worldwide today," says collection director Eva Fuhry. The oldest preserved specimen in the Kiel collection is from 1875, a kidney that has turned greyish blue due to poisoning with silver.

The heart of the exhibition is the walk-in, original sales room of a pharmacy dating from 1894. "The office, as the sales room is called, is the highlight for our visitors," says Fuhry. In those days, medicines were not produced industrially, but by hand in small quantities. "The manual production of drugs was done in the formulation room behind the sales room."

This particular room resembled a professional kitchen. It was where the drugs, the raw materials for making drugs, were stored and processed. In the pharmacopoeia, which was valid for the entire German Reich from 1874, it was prescribed how the tablets, pills and tinctures were to be produced. In addition to a sales room, a material chamber, a poison chamber, a laboratory with a stove and an impact chamber were part of the equipment of a pharmacy. All this can also be seen in the museum. By the way: The required stove system was not available on order. The pharmacist had to be technically versed enough to plan it and to be able to commission a local craftsman to build it.

What particularly distinguishes the museum is its child-oriented museum education. There is a wide range of workshops on offer: the museum pharmacy organises thematic children's birthdays with many experiments.

Children of primary school age can choose between "How does blue taste? rubber drops and experiments" or "Pharmacy for body and soul". Children between the ages of eight and twelve are offered activities such as "Bathing Day", "Healing Art and Personal Hygiene in Ancient Egypt" or "The Styling Laboratory". They can make their own marzipan confectionery, rubber drops, bath chocolates, body lotion, shampoo or hair gel and learn in a playful way how to work in a laboratory or a pharmacy

For nine to twelve-year-olds, the collection has the criminalistic program "Crime Scene Poison Chamber". Here, the little investigators have to prove good instincts and solve the mystery of the poison chamber in the crime lab. The museum also offers guided tours and workshops for school classes or adults on request.

Author: Farah Claußen