• anatomy;
  • medical museums;
  • medical education;
  • web-based learning;
  • self-directed learning;
  • independent learning;
  • observational skills;
  • anatomy curriculum


From the early 19th century until the most recent two decades, open-space and satellite museums featuring anatomy and pathology collections (collectively referred to as “medical museums”) had leading roles in medical education. However, many factors have caused these roles to diminish dramatically in recent years. Chief among these are the great advances in information technology and web-based learning that are currently at play in every level of medical training. Some medical schools have abandoned their museums while others have gradually given away their museums' contents to devote former museum space to new classrooms, lecture halls, and laboratories. These trends have accelerated as medical school enrollment has increased and as increasing interest in biological and biomedical research activities have caused medical schools to convert museum space into research facilities. A few medical schools, however, have considered the contents of their museums as irreplaceable resources for modern medicine and medical education and the space these occupy as great environments for independent and self-directed learning. Consequently, some medical schools have updated their medical museums and equipped them with new technologies. The Anatomical Museum of Leiden University Medical Center in The Netherlands and the Medical Museum of Kawasaki Medical School in Kurashiki, Okayama, Japan, are two examples of such upgraded museums. Student surveys at Leiden University have indicated that all students (100%) found audio-guided museum tours to be useful for learning and majorities of them found guided tours to be clinically relevant (87%). However, 69% of students felt that museum visits should be optional rather than compulsory within the medical training curriculum. Anat Sci Educ 3:249–253, 2010. © 2010 American Association of Anatomists.