Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery

Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery

The University of Glasgow's Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery is the oldest public museum in Scotland. It is located in various buildings on the main campus of the University in the west end of Glasgow.

The history of the museum

The museum first opened in 1807, in a specially constructed building off the High Street, adjoining the original campus of the University. When the University moved west to its new site at Gilmorehill (to escape crowding and pollution in the city centre) the museum moved too.


The money to build the museum, and the core of its original collections, came from the bequest of the Scottish anatomist and scientist William Hunter, who died in London in 1783. As well as his medical collections, which arose from his own work, Hunter collected very widely, often assisted by his many royal and aristocratic patrons. He and his agents scoured Europe for coins, minerals, paintings and prints, ethnographic materials, books and manuscripts, as well as insects and other biological specimens. Hunter's eclectic bequest forms the core of the collections, but since Hunter's death, they have grown considerably, and now include some of the most important collections of work by artists such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh and James McNeill Whistler, as well as superb geological, zoological, anatomical, archaeological, ethnographic and scientific instrument collections.

The museum and gallery's current facilities

The collections of the museum distributed across a number of buildings around the campus:

The Hunterian Museum

Housed in large halls in George Gilbert Scott's University buildings on Gilmorehill, the museum features extensive displays relating to William Hunter and his collections, Roman Scotland (especially the Antonine Wall, geology, ethnography, ancient Egypt, scientific instruments, coins and medals, and much more.

The Zoology Museum

Most of the zoology collections, including those of William Hunter, are displayed in a separate museum within the Graham Kerr building, which also houses most of the University's zoological research and teaching. This is also open to the general public. The insect collections are particularly important and extensive, and are the feature of some excellent recent displays.

The Hunterian Gallery

The Gallery is now housed in a modern, custom-built facility that is part of the extensive University library complex. This displays the University's extensive art collection, and features an outdoor sculpture garden. The bas relief aluminium doors to the Hunterian Gallery were designed by sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi. The gallery's collection includes a large number of the works of James McNeill Whistler and the majority of the watercolours of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

The Mackintosh House

The Mackintosh House is a modern concrete building, part of the gallery-library complex. It stands on the site of one of two rows of terraced houses which were once sections of Hillhead Street and Southpark Avenue, demolished in the 1960s to make room for the University's expansion across the residential crown of Gilmorehill. One of the buildings lost, 78 Southpark Avenue, was formerly a home to Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (although Mackintosh himself did not design it). The University rebuilt the form of the house (using modern materials) approximately 100 metres from the site of the original. Due to its displacement, one door now hangs precariously above a 20 foot drop, the ground on what was once Hillhead Street having been radically excavated during the construction. "The Mackintosh House" features some of the original woodwork of the old terraced house, and has been furnished entirely to Mackintosh's design, with original decorations and furniture.

Other Hunterian museums

William Hunter's brother John, a surgeon, also founded a museum; the London museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, also known as the Hunterian Museum, is based on his collection. The museum displays thousands of anatomical specimens, including the Evelyn tables and the skeleton of the "Irish giant" Charles Byrne, and many surgical instruments. It underwent a major refurbishment in 2003 and 2004, creating a new "crystal" gallery of steel and glass.

Both brothers are celebrated in the town of their birth, East Kilbride, at the small Hunter House Museum.

External links

* [ The Hunterian's homepage]
* [ The Hunterian's searchable online catalogue]

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