I have recently returned from a whistle stop tour of the museums and collections held by the University of Montpelier with a view to developing an exhibition in the Faculty of Medicine in 2016, responding to their incredible collection. The Faculty of Medicine has been operating since 1181 and their Museum of Anatomy is a rare and magnificent wonder. One vast 60 meter long strikingly decorated gallery houses one of the largest and oldest anatomy collections in the world. The collection is exceptionally authentic and seems unchanged since its original construction in 1851. Hand written, labels in copperplate French and Latin describe the meticulous wax models of disease and deformity and carefully prepared human and animal specimens. The collection was cleaned and some repairs to the leaking roof made in 2004 but this was obviously carried out with a light touch, respecting not only the objects but also the heritage of the museum itself. No doubt one or two of the anthropological and anatomical displays are problematic to contemporary eyes but it is, I believe important to have some record, some understanding of the development of both our scientific, ethical and moral progress.
We also visited the enigmatic Jardins des Plantes de l'Université Herbarium founded in 1593 with over 4,000,000 specimens. A vast catacomb of 1600-square-metres of dark shelf-lined corridors containing bulging portfolios of carefully pressed, preserved and catalogued plants and fungi and ancient herbal texts. We were also allowed access to the eclectic scientific collections temporarily housed in the attics and basement, awaiting a permanent home.