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I really enjoyed this year’s Culture Night in Dublin City centre. With so much to see, I think I did quite well fitting in a good few fascinating venues….

So first stop was the Royal College of Surgeons where Prof T. Clive Lee from the Dept of Anatomy delivered a really engaging lecture on the Surgeons’ Halls building. Built on a Quaker burial ground in the city centre, the college has a rich history, with stories of 5 Irish surgeons who treated Napoleon (who gave £6000 towards the building), stories of famous surgeons and their discoveries (ever hear of a Colles fracture?) and tales of Nancy Reagan loving one of the large rugs in the building so much that the same design now features in the Whitehouse!

The college was occupied during the 1916 Rising with Countess Markievicz at the helm (but a truce apparently took place twice a day to feed the ducks in St Stephens Green Park). The portrait of Queen Victoria was one of the few intentionally damaged items and a fragment of the painting recently came up at auction. Emily Winifred Dickson was elected the first female Fellow of RCSI in 1893 and they have more recently had the first ever female Dean and first female President of an Irish medical School. Other interesting past pupil surgeons include Sr William Thornley Stoker, Bram’s brother (who I hope influenced his writing with tales from the operating table), Sr William Wilde- father of Oscar, and Oliver St John Gogarty, who lived with James Joyce for only a week but was immortalised in Ulysses forever. The lecture theatre features beautiful stained glass windows portraying the history of medicine by the artist George Walsh. Of course you can’t have a stained glass window on the history of medicine without an image of a trepanned skull on it…

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I then dropped into St Ann’s church on Dawson Street which was built in the 1700’s.

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Since 1723 these shelves have contained loaves of bread for the poor of the city by bequest of Lord Newton…

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They had a bust of Bram’s Stoker on display, Stoker got married in this church in 1878.

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I also dropped into the Royal Irish Academy– founded in 1785, this is Ireland’s academy for the sciences, humanities and social sciences. I picked up this nice little booklet from a previous exhibition -From Cromwell to Cholera: A history of Ireland from the pamphlet collection of Charles Haliday.

A quick stop in the Royal College of Physicians was next. How I’d love to be let loose in the Sr Patrick Dun Library….

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I enjoyed a quick chat with the archivist and questioned why we don’t have a medical museum for the public in Ireland. I had the same conversation with Prof. Clive Lee in the College of Surgeons. I guess it’s lack of funding, but after visiting so many medical museums internationally, it’s really frustrating to think there is no funding, considering what fascinating items must lie in the archives of RCPI, RCSI and TCD (which has an anatomy museum for teaching/research). I know there were plans for a Science museum some years back (pre-recession). Perhaps there will be some massive philanthropic donation from abroad! I was glad to hear that RSPI might have a special exhibition from their archives in 1916.

I hoped to visit the Freemason’s Hall but the queue was too obscene for this poor pregnant woman! I guess there is always an air of mystery around the Mason’s that really attracts the masses.

The Zoological Museum in Trinity College was the last stop for me on Culture Night. What a gorgeous little museum tucked into the Zooolgy Department Builiding, it features everything from stunning glass models from the Blaschka family to Ireland’s last (now extinct) Great Auk. The poor old Great Auk has a sad story. Over hunted for its down, it’s eggs, and for research, the last few we’re killed by man. Now less than 80 survive worldwide and they are the ones that are stuffed and peering from beyond the glass in Natural History museums around the world.

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On a lighter note… Any guess what this is?

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10 points if you said “camel’s stomach”. It has 3 chambers for all that chewing the cud and was obscenely big, looking like a large tumour!

There were lots of specimens out on display with staff encouraging visitors to touch and feel… I particularly liked this guy…

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Other favourites include the jar of tapeworms…

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The poor old pickled “vampurus” bat…

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The narwhal tusk…

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And some others from behind the glass…

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And last but not least…

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There was such a great atmosphere in the city centre, with so many cultural explorers gripping their culture night guidebooks, marching from venue to venue. Looking forward to next year…

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