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Post: Blog2_Post
  • Writer's pictureEleanor Crook

Announcing! My two new sculptures for the new Hunterian Museum London

Well, after some frantic wax modelling to deadlines on my part and a superhuman push from the outstanding museum team I am delighted to say the new Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England is now open to the public - last seen in 2017 - there has been a complete recreation. I was commissioned to make two sculptures for it, which you may have seen in progress over the last couple of years in my posts. There's a wax sculpture of a mitral valve replacement operation, and a bronze with oil painted organs, of keyhole gall bladder removal, a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

I have had the good fortune to work with cardiac surgeon Francis Wells, a great friend to medical artists, and with the manufacturers of surgical equipment: Karl Storz Endoscopy UK for the endoscopy equipment, Corcym who made the mitral mechanical valve and Genesee Biomedical , Inc. who make the chest retractor. The bronze and metalwork was, as ever, done by my friends at Basingstoke Sculpture Castings Ltd . Much appreciation to all these collaborators, to the museum team and to curator Dawn Kemp!

The Hunterian Museum, London is open Tuesday to Saturday: 10 am - 5 pm (last entry 4:30 pm) and there is now a cafe and museum shop.

The Mitral Valve Replacement operation carries my title: Valva Mitralis: So fine a gate you made in me , That life pours through , Without the soul escaping.

The operation is shown at the moment when the bileaftlet mechanical valve made by Corcym has been sutured on long sutures connecting it to the ring , the annulus, of the mitral valve left behind after the failed native valve has been excised, leaving behind the chordae tendineae, papilliary muscles and sometimes repairing the chordae with goretex threads. The mechanical valve is poised ready to be slid down the central column of threads and stitched firmly in place to the annulus.

Here is the bronze sculpture of a laparoscopic cholecystectomy operation - keyhole gall bladder removal:

The instruments were made and donated by Karl Storz Endoscopy UK of SLough, whose amazing training centre I visited just after the second Covid lockdown. The light from the endoscope shines on the cystic duct and artery which are severed and clipped ready for the gall bladder to be taken out through one of the small incisions. You can see the endoscope and camera on the right, also two long graspers with a scissor action handle, and on the right a diathermy hook which cuts and cauterises instead of using a scalpel. The cutaway shows all the organs and they're not wax - they are oil painted bronze. Painting this felt like painting through a letterbox!

On the screen behind my sculpture you can see endoscopic footage of this operation, which was useful as reference and for colour matching.

It was an honour to contribute to the new displays in this historic museum and a pleasure to work with an excellent team and some distinguished collaborators. Thanks again to all involved, and I hope if you visit London you will enjoy John Hunter's collection and everything the medical profession has added to it over the centuries.

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