Founded in 1997, The Berkshire Medical Heritage Centre is based in the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading (built 1881-1882). Located in the old hospital laundry (built 1881-1882), the Museum is the hub of the Centre's activities. In 2008 the Museum underwent a major redevelopment after being awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
This is a small, independent general medical museum and registered charity whose aim is to preserve and display items of historical medical interest, particularly those with a local connection. The Museum is run entirely by volunteers - most of whom are retired employees of the hospital - and is supported by an active Friends group who take part in events throughout the year.
Our collection includes many hundreds of artefacts and photographs relating to medicine, surgery, nursing, pharmacy and dentistry. We record oral histories and publish and promote books on local healthcare history which are available from our small shop at the museum.
We also have custody of the archives of the Royal Berkshire Hospital, which include records dating back to its foundation in 1837.
On display is a wide range of items mainly from the early 19th century to the 1980s, including a vintage dental surgery, a 1939 iron lung, a working prototype fibre-optic endoscope, a glass eye collection, ear trumpets and live leeches, as well as audio recordings of former staff and patients.
Our Museum displays include a dental surgery exhibition, with items dating from the early 19th century to the 1960s. There one can find an iron lung, audio recordings of patients and staff, a working demonstration of a fibre-optic endoscope, a glass eye collection and live leeches.
We also have a display about one of the hospital’s most famous patients, Battle of Britain pilot Douglas Bader whose legs were amputated by surgeon Mr Leonard Joyce following a crash at nearby Woodley Airfield in 1931.
Despite being a double amputee, Bader became famous for his heroics during World War II and was subsequently decorated and celebrated in popular culture through the book, ‘Reach for the Sky’, by Paul Brickhill, published in 1954, which was made into a highly successful film two years later. The Museum has published a booklet about Mr Joyce, which covers his surgery on Bader, and can be purchased at the Museum.
Additional displays can also be found around the hospital; along the concourse in the Centre Block, in the foyer of the Maternity Unit, in the Radiology Department and in the Trust Education Centre.
We are open on the first and third Sundays of each month from 14:00 to 16:30 and also by arrangement for groups at other times.
For further information about us, our Friends or to arrange a group visit, go to our website or follow us on social media
Berkshire Medical Heritage Centre & Medical Museum,
Level 4, Main Entrance,
Royal Berkshire Hospital,
Telephone: 0118 322 8478
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