When the Royal Academy of Arts in London was founded in 1768, Dr. William Hunter (1718–1783) became its first professor of anatomy. Known as a leading physician and obstetrician to royalty, Hunter also amassed a cross-disciplinary collection of objects that ultimately became the foundation for one of the first public museums, The Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, Scotland. The range and diversity of this remarkably intact museum illuminates the artistic, medical, and intellectual pursuits of the Age of Enlightenment.
This exhibition features over three hundred objects from Hunter’s original collections. Bridging Hunter’s age with our own, the display also includes works by four contemporary artists—Selva Aparicio, Claire Barclay, Nate Lewis, and Maya Vivas—which provoke social and philosophical questions about the worlds of medicine and anatomical dissection, and about the understanding of the origin of life and the eventuality of death, which lie at the heart of Hunter’s researches into human pregnancy. The exhibition thus contemplates how objects of different kinds, perspectives on the body, and museums themselves have and continue to mediate our understanding of one another and the world in which we live.
William Hunter and the Anatomy of the Modern Museum has been organized by the Center in partnership with The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow. The exhibition was first on display at The Hunterian from September 27, 2018, to January 6, 2019. The guest curator has been Mungo Campbell, Deputy Director of The Hunterian; and the organizing curator at the Center has been Nathan Flis, Head of Exhibitions and Publications, and Assistant Curator of Seventeenth-Century Paintings. They have been assisted by María Dolores Sánchez-Jáuregui, William Hunter Tercentenary Curator at The Hunterian.