For pathology professor Rick Fraser, BSc’69, MDCM’76, who spends many of his days surrounded by skulls, preserved organs, and anatomical models, death is one of the most interesting parts of life. If you visit him at the newly opened-to-the-public Maude Abbott Medical Museum, you might leave feeling the same way.
Fraser is the director of the museum, whose unique collections date back to the early days of the University in the 1820s.
The collections began with the “Holmes heart;” a world-famous specimen, preserved in 1824 by Andrew F. Holmes – McGill’s first dean of medicine – displays a rare congenital heart disease. In the late 1800s, the collection continued to grow under the purview of curator Maude Abbott, BA1890, who oversaw what was then known as the McGill Medical Museum until 1923. “She built it into a world-class medical museum … probably one of the best in the world,” says Fraser. A major portion of the museum’s collections relate to Abbott’s own work as an international authority on congenital heart disease.
Much like his predecessor, the museum is truly a labor of love for Fraser. The importance of the museum, according to him, is rooted in the invaluable nature of its vast collection – items related to battlefield injuries sustained during the American Civil War, for instance. Medical museums played a key role in the education of medical students in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “The best part of my job is interacting with the people. It’s like showing my baby pictures,” says Fraser.
Visit the Maude Abbott Medical Museum on Wednesdays and Fridays from 1:00-4:00 p.m., or by appointment at firstname.lastname@example.org