Hunting Treasures

A new browser makes it easier to discover the many treasures residing within the faculty’s museums.


More than 17,000 artworks, photographs, pieces of equipment, artefacts, archives, objects of curiosity and biological specimens make up the collections in the Medical History Museum, the Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum, and the Harry Brookes Allen Anatomy and Pathology Museum.

Many of the artworks offer fascinating insights into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing practices. Other items explore the history of teaching, learning and research within the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences and across Australia and internationally.

As part of a strategy to assist more people to appreciate and access the collections, in 2021, MDHS Museums and Vernon Systems created a new and interactive collection browser. Called Vernon, the browser links all three MDHS museum collections on one platform.

The result is a centralised, information-rich interactive tool where University staff and students and the wider community can search the collections via colour, keyword search, named collection, object type or maker. The browser provides access to more than 17,000 objects, 8,000 images, and 3,000 profiles of the makers, artists and significant people associated with the objects.

The Vernon browser was launched in July 2022 and students across the University were encouraged to explore the collections. A successful social media campaign resulted in students embarking on treasure hunts and using daily clues to navigate the website and find objects in the digital collections.

During three treasure hunts, students discovered the interesting history and hoax surrounding the Piltdown man fossil fragments and learned more about flamboyant 19th century Melbourne surgeon, James Beaney, the first major donor to the University of Melbourne. A third hunt explored the origins of forensic dentistry through a late 19th century newspaper cutting and death masks.

“I learned how to use the new search tools and gained so much knowledge from all the questions,” Krissa Damay.

“Thehunt was a fun way to learn a lot more about what the Medical History Museum website has to offer. It was a great way to see the huge amounts of photos and objects within the collections!” Molly Stow.


Written by Jacqueline Healy, Director, Faculty Museums.