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FREAK SHOW MUSEUM TO BE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC; Plan for medical collection.

A GRUESOME medical museum may be about to open to the public for the first time in 300 years.

But it will have to pass a health safety test first.

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is thinking of opening its anatomy and pathological museum in a bid to raise pounds 330,000 a year.

The college is certain people would flock to see the exhibits.

They include the notebook wallet made from the skin of notorious Edinburgh graverobber and murderer William Burke.

Burke and his partner William Hare were Irish labourers who dug up corpses to sell to the college for medical dissection classes.

But the pair turned to murder, luring down-and-outs to their Westport home, where they plied them with drink before killing them. They sold the bodies for pounds 10.

The pair were tried for the murder of 15 people. Hare turned King's evidence and Burke was executed in front of 35,000 people on the Royal Mile.

The museum's exhibits are housed in the Playfair Hall.

There are human body parts in jars, including examples of Siamese twins and a Chinese bound foot, with specimens dating back almost to the college's founding in 1505.

The college is considering setting up a fund to pay for the preservation of such priceless heritage, which costs it pounds 330,000 each year.

The college's annual report for 2000 states that it wants to set up the museum endowment fund by 2005, the college's 500th birthday.

Members of the public can visit the museum only on specially- arranged and supervised tours.

Before it could be made open to the general public, security and health and safety issues will have to be resolved.

Many specimens are displayed on open shelves and would need to be made secure before the public could be allowed to wander around.

College chief executive Jim Foster said: "The museum attracts worldwide interest and that is one of the reasons we want to start the fund and open it to the public.

"But the ethics of displaying human body parts is an area we have got to sort out."
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 3, 2000
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