Medical school museums are a permanent educational resource that provides access at the individual’s convenience. They may be considered a supplemental approach to providing graduate and postgraduate medical students with materials for the study of not only anatomy, but also of other basic and clinical sciences, such as embryology, pathology, and surgery. Also, they could be developed as a valuable tool for earning credits for mandatory continuing medical education (CME) requirements for physicians.
Historically, medical school museums were a principal resource for teaching anatomy and surgery and were considered superior to most other educational materials since they allowed both self-directed learning and group study, providing a means to develop better professional communication skills, objectives that currently are emphasized in medical education. However, there was a dramatic decline in the role of museums as an educational tool, which resulted in either partial or complete neglect of their contents and replacement of their floor space with other educational facilities, such as lecture halls, classrooms, and study rooms. Many factors contributed to the decline of museum use: the high maintenance costs for an optional use facility, the large amount of floor space they occupy, which otherwise can be used for research activities that may attract extramural funds to the institution, and the remarkably widespread adoption of information technology and multimedia in medical education, including anatomy.
Existing medical school museums should never lose their value as scientific and pedagogic tools as long as anatomy and pathology remain essential foundations for clinical practice. Equipping museums with state-of-the-art information technology capabilities may be a means both of updating them and of encouraging their use in anatomy teaching as part of an integrated medical curriculum.
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The authors would appreciate William Roy, PhD, for his kind review of this work.
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