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Scuola Grande di San Marco a Venezia

During our visit to Venice we have visited the museums of the Scuola Grande di San Marco, the old civilian hospital of the Serenissima, reopened to the public in 2013. The main exhibition area of the hospital contains an amazing hall for the library and display cases for their medical incunabula and old books, completed by artifacts used in the old hospital. Visiting the display we were impressed by the art decoration of the rooms and learned much about the medical books produced in Venice during the 16th-18th centuries, some of which also reached Transylvania. We were also interested by the old medical and pharmaceutical artifacts, such as mortars and pestles, scarificators, surgery tools and many more. Feel free to read more about it on their website: https://www.scuolagrandesanmarco.it/en/introduction/scuola-grande-di-san-marco-presentation.html

The pharmaceutical collection in Sighișoara

The items in the pharmaceutical collection of the History Museum in Sighișoara are impressive, though not the same can be said about their display. Some of the artifacts (out of the much more numerous collection) are exhibited in one of the floors of the museum in the medieval Clock Tower. One can inspect apothecary painted furniture, drug jars and boxes, but also medical and especially surgical tools, books, weights, diplomas and other patrimony goods related especially to the local history of pharmacy. Though the exhibition awaits a much needed remake, the items on display have been recently published in Veress László’s book entitked, Népgyógyászat és hivatalos orvoslás határán. Segesvár gyógyszerészet-történeti, Stúdium, 2021 [On the verge of folk and official medicine. The pharmaceutical history of Sighișoara].

The Pharmacy Museum in Sibiu

In September 2021 we have visited the History of Pharmacy Museum in Sibiu, part of the Brukenthal National Museum. Taking advantage of the specialized guided tour provided by Dr. Ana-Maria Păpureanu, we have discovered the very rich patrimony of this museum opened in the former rooms of the Black Bear pharmacy, the third one in Sibiu, that functioned between around 1600 and 1949, when it was nationalized. This is the largest history of pharmacy collection in Romania, with circa 7000 artifacts dated between the 16th and the 20th century. We have talked about the history of the museum itself (opened in 1972) and about the education programs they organize.

We recommend all those interested in the history of pharmacy, pharmaceutical technology, homeopathy and history in general to visit the museum in Sibiu. The information provided inside the museum is abundant and the guided tours can be very technical for groups such as students of pharmacy and botany.

The History of Pharmacy and Medicine in Kecskemet

Kecskemet hosts a small but highly specialized museum of medicine and pharmacy (part of the Kecskeméti Katona József Múzeum). Their collection is much larger, including about 5000 artifacts, but those selected for the exhibition are well chosen and well explained. Through its dual structure, the history of both medicine and pharmacy, the museum most resembles the History of Pharmacy Collection in Cluj. We highly recommend a visit to the Orvos- és Gyógyszerészettörténeti Gyűjtemény, with its nice design, good visual materials (drawings, digital data), and extensive English presentation file. There are also interactive areas – one can discover the smell and therapeutic indications of volatile oils and the trendy design of old pharmaceutical commercials. We congratulate the curator, Ágnes Mészáros, and her team.

The two pharmacy museums in Kőszeg

The charming town of Kőszeg, Hungary, boasts two pharmacy museums, both part of the Kőszegi Városi Múzeum and both on display in old local apothecary shops: Aranyi Egyszárvu Patikaháza (The Golden Unicorn Pharmacy Museum) and Fekete Szerecseny Patikaháza (The Black Saracen Pharmacy Museum). The first, which is the larger of the two, is located in the very center of the town, and one can visit the exhibition on the ground floor, the plant-drying installation and exhibition in the attic, and the reconstructed herb garden in the back. The exhibition is remarkable through it extensive materia medica and inclusion of medical instruments. The smaller museum contains officina furniture sets, as well as a reconstructed laboratory. We have certainly enjoyed our visit to Kőszeg and learned a lot.

The Pharmacy Museum in Mauthausen

The Mauthausen museum in Austria is small, maintained by a local historical association and opened during limited hours. But it is well worth the effort! The history of pharmacy collection, created mainly around the objects of an old local pharmacy that functioned until the contemporary period, is very well structured, thorough, and very well informed. The display dates to the 1970s but is still up to date – the panels are very clear, the artifacts are grouped according to materials, topics, and purpose (laboratory apparatuses grouped according to specific pharmaceutic production processes), the explanations contain contemporary elements that visitors can easily related to (the ingredients in Coca Cola, for example), and especially with interactive elements. We were delighted by the cupboard with tiny doors for apothecary curiosities (materia medica and containers). Visitors can open these doors to discover the contents; in other areas they can pull our drawers with documents and photographs, or they can browse through laminated replicas of old books and manuscripts. The explanations are in German, but one can use the excellent English audioguide (with fragments from an interview with the pharmacists who donated the artifacts and structured the exhibition). In the end one can take a break and gaze through the window, as the Danube flows across the road the runs by Pragstein Castle.

The Czech Pharmaceutical Museum

The largest pharmaceutical museum in the Czech Republic is on display inside the monumental building of the Hospital in Kuks and is administered by the Faculty of Pharmacy of the Charles University. We have visited two of their exhibitions, the history of pharmacy and pharmaceutical production technology, as well as the open-air medicinal herb garden. It is the richest pharmaceutical collection in the Czech Republic , including not only artifacts from old apothecary shops, bated between the Baroque and the contemporary periods, and specific machines and technology used in the production of medicines. When planning to visit Kuks one should keep in mind that the exhibitions are only accessible part of periodical guided tours (the faculty cannot provide enough personnel for the entire building) and that very few texts are in English and the tour is only in Czech (one can ask though for a printed English leaflet). There are also demonstrations (pill-rolling) and interactive elements (stamping),

At the White Unicorn in Klatovy

The history of pharmacy museum in the former ”At the White Unicorn” baroque apothecary shop is one of the main attractions of Klatovy, in the Czech Republic (Barokní lékárna u Bílého jednorožce, part of the Vlastivědné muzeum Dr. Hostaše v Klatovech). During our visit, in July 2021, we were impressed by the variety and rarity of the natural specimens on display, starting with the narwhal horn that gave the shop its name and ending with the jar of living leeches. We also admired the scarificators (for bloodletting), a mortar with mechanically-turn pestle, and a special closet with a painted human skull in which Venena, possibly toxic products, were kept in the old pharmacies. The narwhal horn acquired in 1740 by owner Stepan Schmidt proved a real marketing success. The furniture was obtained from the Jesuit pharmacy in town after the dissolution of the order. In 2010 it was restored to its 18th-century state and is impressive through its shades of green and gold. We are grateful for Dr. Martina Salvová’s specialized guided tour , her practical demonstrations in the production of medicines, and the privilege of taking photos inside the museum.

The Jesuit pharmacy in Český Krumlov

Part of our Central European tour in July 2021 we have also visited the Baroque pharmacy of the Jesuit college in Český c(in the Czech Republic). The furniture and some of the 18th and 19th-century jars of this pharmacy are on display inside the regional museum of Český Český. The lot is interesting because all items originate from the same context, thus helping the reconstruction of a baroque apothecary. Furthermore, one notes the specific elements of a religious pharmacy: the statue of Virgin Mary the Immaculate, depictions of saints Pantaleon of John of Nepomuk, the tiny decorations on the furniture with the head of the Virgin, even a holy wafer mold with the Jesuit monogram, the IHS (Jesus Hominum Salvator).

The History of Pharmacy Collection in Graz

The collection, part of Graz Museum, includes about 2300 items and is thus similar to the collection in Cluj. In Graz, the rooms dedicated to the history of pharmacy are not open to the general public, as a renewal of the exhibition is required, but it does host regular museum education events. We have discovered special artifacts such as a materia medica set for medicine and pharmacy students, produced in the USA, a so-called ”viper cord” (a piece of cord soaked in viper blood, worn as an amulet, especially during childbirth), a medicinal plant drying stove, and a heavy pestle balanced for ease of use. We thank Mrs. Silke Essinger and we congratulate her for all the interactive activities she organizes there (we wish could have stayed longer, for the artisanal soap making class!).