The Warren Anatomical Museum is one of the last surviving anatomy and pathology museum collections in the United States. In 1847, Harvard anatomist and surgeon John Collins Warren founded the Museum to preserve and classify specimens and models needed for teaching. Until 1999, the Museum was in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. It is now an integral part of the Countway Library's Center for the History of Medicine.
No longer a brick and mortar museum, the collection lives on as teaching and research resource. Within the larger Center, it still manages Harvard's historical anatomy and pathology collections. The Museum continues to grow and it collects the artifacts and history of the Harvard health science community. It's mission is to inform contemporary medicine, the Harvard health community, and the public.
Scope of the Collection
The Warren Anatomical Museum contains over 15,000 specimens and artifacts. Its earliest items originate with the Museum of the Massachusetts Medical College (1810-1846). The anatomical and pathological teaching and research collections grew until the 1940s. New England physicians, Harvard-trained clinicians, and Harvard professors donated to the Museum. The curators bought osteological preparations and anatomical models from European anatomy dealers. Artists and photographers hired by the faculty created teaching works for the Warren. Harvard physicians made casts of their patients and added them to the museum. Starting in 1906, the Museum began collecting historical medical instruments and devices to document the history of medicine and Harvard's contribution to medical science.
Much of the Museum's historical collection was still extant when it became part of the Center for the History of Medicine in 1999. The survival of the collection was rare for an American medical school. Many U.S. medical schools decommissioned their museums in the mid-20th century. The present collection includes:
- 3,200 anatomical and osteological preparations
- 875 wet tissue preparations
- Over a 1,000 watercolors, drawings, photographs, and lantern slides
- An estimated 1,000 anatomical models and casts
- 500 human and non-human calculi
- Roughly 8,500 medical, dental, and public health instruments and devices
The collection’s strengths are in anatomy, pathology, and medical education. It draws from the Harvard health sciences community.