Thackray Medical Museum

The Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds, England, tells the story of medicine and is located next to St James's University Hospital. Since opening in 1997 it has won "Museum of the Year" and other awards and is now one of the UK's largest medical museums.

The building is a Grade II listed building, the former Leeds Union Workhouse, built in 1858 to accommodate 784 paupers. By the end of the 19th century, the buildings had become largely used for medical care of the poor, rather than workhouse and training. During the First World War it was called the East Leeds War Hospital, caring for armed services personnel.

There are nine interactive galleries and highlights include:

Leeds 1842: visitors walk through a reproduction of slum streets complete with authentic sights, sounds and smells and are invited to follow the lives, ailments and treatments of eight Victorian characters. Visitors make the choices that determine their survival amongst the rats, fleas and bedbugs.

Pain, Pus and Blood describes surgery before anaesthesia and the advances of surgical techniques.

Recovery? From Flanders to Afghanistan, is an exhibition to mark the centenary of WWI. The exhibition focuses on Limb loss, hearing loss and shell shock and looks at the medical advances that have emerged from the war. 

Hannah Dyson's Ordeal is a reconstruction of 1842 surgery, before anaesthetics were in use. Visitors watch as 11-year old Hannah undergoes amputation of her leg after it was crushed in a mill accident.

The Life Zone is an interactive children's gallery exploring how the body works and how to keep healthy.

There is also a temporary exhibition gallery which changes on a regular basis. Recent temporary exhibitions included Magic of Medicine and Skeleton Science

Keywords: IMD2015

Exhibitions and events

Leeds 1842

Permanent exhibition

The sights, sounds and smells of a Victorian street in Leeds will transport you back in time to 1842 and we’ll introduce you to a range of characters who lived there at the time.   Queen...

Health Choices

Permanent exhibition

In Victorian times there was a cure for everything – at least, that’s what many of the quacks and chemists of the time claimed!    This exhibition explores the choices on offer...

Disease in Retreat

Permanent exhibition

Disease in Retreat is a great antidote to our crowded and disease-ridden Victorian street! Here you can find out how scientific discoveries gradually led to a greater understanding of disease and a...

Life Zone

Permanent exhibition

Younger visitors love exploring Life Zone!   Fun, educational and interactive, kids have a great time finding their way around the colourful, hands-on exhibits and learning more about how their...

Fantastic Plastic

Permanent exhibition

What scent should a medical face mask have? Which material would you choose to make a replacement hip? Come and learn from the experts!   Today, we take plastic for granted, but it plays a key...

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Educational programs

School visits


The Thackray Medical Museum opens its doors to 20,000 school students every year, and reaches out to many more through our in-classroom work, educational resources, loans boxes, and teacher events....


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