From the Everyday to the Extraordinary: Uncovering the Warren Anatomical Museum Backlog

Like many museums, the Warren Anatomical Museum (WAM) had a backlog. This backlog was made up of over 100 boxes of medical instruments. Most of these boxes came from an offsite storage unit that closed in the 1990s. A few came from the former WAM exhibit space in Gordon Hall. The rest came from unknown sources. Broad categorical terms were written on the outsides of the boxes. Other than this, very little was known about the contents of the backlog.

In 2019, an inventory of the instrumentation backlog was created. This inventory revealed a total of 1649 objects, which spanned a wide range of subjects across multiple centuries. The majority of the collection was made up of commonly used medical instruments from the 19th and early 20th centuries. There were also objects dating as far back as the early 18th century and as recent as the 1970s. Many medical specialties were represented in the collection. There were also a few particularly noteworthy objects in the collection that are associated with important moments in medical history. Together, these objects shed light on both the history of medicine and the history of the Warren Anatomical Museum.

This exhibit examines the contents of the medical instrumentation backlog, from the everyday to the extraordinary.


The Warren Anatomical Museum's medical instrumentation backlog was processed as part of the museum's FY2019 LEAN Project. This online exhibit was curated by WAM Collections Assistant Theodora Burbank.