Come and See: The Amsterdam Anatomical Collection Dissected


Part of a face, with the eye, eyelids and eyebrows (Vrolik Collection)

An illustrated lecture and book signing with Dr. Laurens de Rooy, curator of the Museum Vrolik in Amsterdam
Date: Thursday, November 11
Time: 8:00
Admission: $5
Presented by Morbid Anatomy
Books will be available for sale and signing.

Two skeletons of dwarfs, rare Siamese twins, cyclops and sirens, dozens of pathologically deformed bones, the giant skull of a grown man with hydrocephalus, the skeleton of the lion once owned by king Louis Napoleon, as well as the organs of a babirusa, Tasmanian devil and tree kangaroo – rare animals that died in the Amsterdam zoo ‘Artis’ shortly before their dissection.

Counting more than five thousand preparations and specimens, the Museum Vrolikianum, the private collection of father Gerard (1775-1859) and his son Willem Vrolik (1801-1863), was an amazing object of interest one hundred and fifty years ago. In the 1840s and 50s this museum, established in Gerard’s stately mansion on the river Amstel, grew into a famous collection that attracted admiring scientists from both the Netherlands and abroad.

After the Vrolik era, the museum was expanded with new collections by succeeding anatomists. What motivated the Vroliks and their successors to collect all these anatomical specimens, skulls, skeletons, and monstrosities? were did their material come from? How did these collections help to built up their views on the origins of life forms?

Since 1984 the museum is located in the academic Hospital of the University of Amsterdam. Recently the museum collections were portrayed by the photographer Hans van den Bogaard for the book Forces of Form. These images will form an essential part in this talk, a ‘dissection’ of the Amsterdam anatomical collection.

Dr. Laurens de Rooy (b. 1974) works as a curator of the Museum Vrolik in the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam. He studie Medical Biology, specializing in the history of science and museology. during his internship he researched the collection of father and son Vrolik. In 2009 he obtained his PhD in medical history.

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