The Devon and Exeter Medical Heritage Trust

The Devon and Exeter Medical Heritage Trust was started informally in 2018 by volunteer curators and cataloguers to hold, preserve, and care for a medical heritage collection of approximately 12,000 items (formerly the Devon & Exeter Medical Society Collection). The main charitable aim is to advance education in the subject of the history and development of the practice of medicine in all its forms and its impact on society and culture throughout the years.

In 2020, the Devon & Exeter Medical Society agreed to formally donate the collection to DEMHT to ensure the continued cohesion and curation of the Collection.

DEMH Trust is ran by a Board of 7 trustees, who bring considerable expertise and experience in a variety of fields relevant to medical history, museum and exhibition curation, and heritage management. 

The Collection

Started by Dr Tom Fison of Wonford in 1971, the Collection has since accumulated an eclectic collection of thousands of items of medical equipment, books, paintings, photographs and medical curiosities. These artefacts were often donated by local institutions and individuals, and extend from Roman scalpels to early ECG and anaesthetic machines. 

The Collection has been researched and displayed in various hubs and centres around Exeter, including the Wonford Hospital, the then-Exeter Postgraduate Medical School, at Exeter Cathedral, the Wellcome Centre at the University of Exeter, and the Devon and Exeter Medical Society. Most of the pre-1900 books in the Collection were donated to Exeter Cathedral Library, and several paintings have been donated to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. In addition, the collection has been used in tutorials on the history of medicine at the University of Exeter Medical School.

Between 2017/2018 and 2020, the group of volunteer curators and cataloguers created exhibitions and talks on the history of medicine (for example, HRMES 2019 and during the Siege of Exeter at St Nicholas Priory), and offered handling sessions to the public at St Nicholas Priory and groups around Devon. The DEMH Trust will also be working with St Nicholas Priory to develop wellbeing activities and strategy.


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