People, Patients and Preparations
: Post-Mortem Journeys and the Status of Human Remains in the Medical Museum of Richard Smith Junior (1772-1843) at the Bristol Infirmary.

  • N Marryat

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


Once famed for its excellence, Richard Smith’s Museum at the Bristol Infirmary has retreated to the fringes of Bristol’s medical history. This study aims to create the first historical account of the museum, through the lens of its creator, Richard Smith Junior. An account of the museum was created through combining information from the surviving fragments, original catalogues, contemporary newspapers and Smith’s own historical works, then this was contextualised within the social and medical landscape of the 18th and 19th centuries. By focussing on Smith as the creator, this study aims to understand the different elements of the museum, where anatomical preparations coexist alongside murder relics, as a cohesive whole. Human remains straddle the distinction of person and object, this study argues that the medical museum was active in the construction of a medically realised intermediary category, the ‘patient’. Transitioning through different spaces in their post-mortem journeys, the fragments in the museum acquire multiple statuses, existing simultaneously person, patient and object. This polysemy is used by Smith to create a museum where he can construct and promote his own identity. Only by understanding the museum as a medically-relevant resource and a tool for social ambition and personal expression can the different elements cohere as one museum.
Date of Award1 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorKate Robson Brown (Supervisor)

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