“Dem Bones, Dem Bones Gonna Dance Around”

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Those are part of the words of an old traditional spiritual. Most people probably know the chorus:

Toe bone connected to the foot bone Foot bone connected to the leg bone Leg bone connected to the knee bone…

It seemed a good lead-in to this article about a very unusual museum in England:

Where else would you get to see the pickled head of a vulture, an Irish giant's skeleton and the diseased tibia of a lion once caged in the Tower of London zoo?

The Royal College of Surgeons boasts one of the most bizarre collections in the country which has attracted 55,000 visitors since it was refurbished last year.

The Hunterian Museum is named after the 18th century surgeon John Hunter who became one of the leading medical figures of his generation and transformed the way operations were conducted.

The sight that greets you on arrival at the museum is bizarre and surreal — row upon row of glass jars containing everything from a human foetus to the larynx of a muscovy duck.

A hyena's urethra, a seal's colon, turtle ovaries — nothing escaped the voracious curiosity of Hunter whose museum of medical oddities was considered so important after his death in 1793 that the government bought it for the Royal College.

The tip of a camel's tongue and the remains of a cancerous human testicle might not rank with most tourists as must-see sights in London but the museum can intrigue the layman as much as the medical devotee.

Curator Simon Chaplin takes visitors once a week on free tours with an infectious enthusiasm for Hunter's achievements in training surgeons to master new techniques.

He delights in telling in lurid detail how grave robbers — known in those days as "Resurrection Men" — would bring corpses in the dead of night to Hunter's house in Leicester Square for him to dissect.

Of course one wonders if the good doctor did business with folks like Burke and Hare.

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