The 116-year-old building that hosts the Institute of Anatomy at Madras Medical College will soon be the home of a full-fledged museum of specimens.
The revamp is expected to happen once the anatomy department is shifted from the building, popularly known as ‘Red Fort,’ to a new campus on the erstwhile central prison premises, said MMC dean V. Kanagasabai. “An anatomy museum already occupies one floor. Now, it will be expanded and will cover the whole building,” he added.
The two-storey building situated on the eastern side of the college was constructed in 1897 and is spread over 4,408 square feet. A red brick building in the Indo-Saracenic style with a wall made of lime and mortar, it was classified as a Grade I heritage building in the Justice E. Padmanabhan Committee on heritage structures.
The college plans to set up exclusive sections for bones and skulls, embryology that traces the different stages of foetus development, congenital anomalies and various organs.
“There are nearly 3,000 exhibits now. When expanded, the museum will be spacious enabling easy movement for students. We also plan to invite biology students of classes XI and XII to visit the museum,” Dr. Kanagasabai said.
The Department of Anatomy moved into the heritage building during the early 1920s. Until the 1950s, the building’s ground floor also housed the department of physiology. In 1952, the building became the exclusive home of the anatomy department. The huge dissection hall and museum of specimens were located on the first floor, while the histology section and laboratory were on the ground floor. This arrangement continues till date.
“The beams of the structure were from Birmingham, England, while the cut glass was from Belgium. A unique feature is the sliding gates on the ceiling, which allowed adjustments to the amount of light coming in. Light and ventilation is essential for dissection purposes. These sliding gates were specifically useful decades ago when students depended on natural light for dissection,” Sudha Seshayyan, director, Institute of Anatomy, MMC said.
The museum dates back to 1928. One of its priced possessions is a specimen of ‘Situs Inversus’, a condition in which the major organs are on the reverse side of their normal position.
Other interesting exhibits include the skeleton of a horse, a collection of over 100 skulls from across the country and comparative anatomy between humans and animals. The building has gallery halls that are used as classrooms.
An official of the Public Works Department said, “We have not carried out any major renovation work in recent years as it is a Grade I heritage building. Only minimal civil work such as repairs to doors or windows was done.”
On plans to convert the block into a museum, he said MMC authorities have to send a proposal on the feasibility of the project. The heritage committee would have to recommend that it be taken up. The PWD would then prepare an estimate for the required works.