Surgeons' Hall Museums

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Surgeons’ Hall Museums (SHM), part of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, houses one of the largest and most historic collections of artefacts charting the history and development of surgery. The collections include surgical instruments and artworks and one of the largest collections of anatomical specimens in the world. These specimens are displayed in the Wohl Pathology Museum, which is located within the iconic building designed by William Playfair in 1832.

All of the exhibits which have made SHM world-famous will be back on display: including a pocket book made from the skin of the infamous murderer, William Burke; and exhibits relating to Dr Joseph Bell, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s teacher and main inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, the highlight of which is a letter from the author crediting his mentor as such.

The reopened SHM, whose transformation has been supported by a £2.7m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will also feature even more interactive and display exhibits, which will help visitors from all around the world discover the stories and breakthroughs that have shaped modern surgical practice.

Venue Type:

Museum, Heritage site

Opening hours

7 days a week 10am-5pm

Admission charges

£6 Adults. £3.50 Concessions.


  • International Council of Museums
  • Museums Association

Additional info

Toilets - There are toilets in the basement. All toilets are fully accessible.

Restaurants and cafés - The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is home to Café 1505 and the Ten Hill Place Hotel & Wine Bar.

Baby Changing - Baby changing facilities are in the basement floor.

The museums contain objects in 9 main categories: anatomical and pathological specimens; casts and models; histological preparations; furniture; paintings and other works of art; photographic prints and slides; voice, video and other recordings; surgical and other instruments; and miscellaneous items.

Collection details

Medicine, Weapons and War

Key artists and exhibits

  • Charles Bell
  • Joseph Lister
  • Robert Liston
  • Robert Knox
  • Burke and Hare
  • James Young Simpson
  • William Playfair
  • William Henry Playfair
Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Unruly Bodies

Exceptional and Extraordinary - Unruly bodies and minds in the medical museum

  • 15 June 2016 From 5pm

Since humans first appeared on Earth, no two have ever been the same. Yet somewhere along the way, certain bodies and minds came to be highly valued whilst others became viewed as problematic; as deviant and unruly, deficient and requiring adjustment towards a perceived idealised norm. Exceptional & Extraordinary is a series of thought-provoking new commissions – inspired by the collections of eight of the UK’s most renowned medical museums and produced out of unique collaborations between artists and experts in medical history, disability and museums – that examine our attitudes towards difference and aim to stimulate debate around the implications of a society that values some lives more than others.

This event is free but tickets must be booked in advance



Let Us Tell You A Story... is a new, highly original, multi-sensory dance production by Deaf Men Dancing (DMD) - known for their unique fusion of different styles of dance with sign language - that invites audiences on a journey to explore Deaf history and experiences of deafness in an entirely new way. Devised and choreographed by DMD’s Artistic Director, Mark Smith, the performance has been inspired by his investigations of medical museum collections that contain hundreds of objects - from exquisite ear trumpets to conspicuously large hearing aid boxes - and the extraordinary untold stories of the people and events, the innovations and technologies that have shaped Deaf experience and identity through time.



In a world of less, some people in the UK are at the sharp end of biomedical decisions: from assisted-dying debates to machines for prolonging lives, who gets the privileges, opportunities and choices and who gets the cuts is a hotly contested issue. In this powerful, unsettling and provocative film, David Hevey examines the increasingly hostile and uncertain world in which many disabled people find themselves.
Disproportionately targeted by cuts in public funding and subject to social, political and medical attitudes towards difference that have far reaching, often pernicious consequences, disabled people increasingly face questions around just who is - and who isn’t - worth the biomedical resources and technology to live longer and empowered lives.

Suitable for

  • Any age


Surgeons' Hall Museums
Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
18 Nicolson Street


Museum Homepage




0131 527 1711

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.