The Anatomy Museum has been located in the building of the Anatomical Theatre at 9 Kronvalda Boulevard for almost a hundred years and served as a study museum for all generations of physicians educated in Latvia.
Foundation of the museum
A founder of the museum was a Swedish anatomist and anthropologist Gaston Backman (1883-1964), who arrived in Latvia in 1920 to teach anatomy to medical students.
Upon arrival Gaston Backman brought with him around 4000 different histological and anatomical preparations from Uppsala which became the basis for the collection of the Anatomy Museum.
Gaston Backman in the early 1920s
In 1925, after Gaston Backman returned to Sweden, the Department of Anatomy and Anatomy Museum was run by a Professor invited from Prague – Arsenijs Starkovs (1874-1927), but later in 1928 – Jēkabs Prīmanis (1892-1971), the outstanding Latvian anatomist and anthropologist took charge and managed the Department and Museum until his emigration in 1944.
Jēkabs Prīmanis in the 1930s
Work on the anatomical collection
The first decades of the Anatomy Museum were the heyday of the museum – museum staff prepared wet anatomical preparations for the collection, took part in archaeological digs, accumulated a large collection of skulls of ancient Latvians, worked on bone preparations, anatomical models, filigree work on corrosion preparations. In a short period of time a substation anatomy, pathology and anthropology collection had been created which still exists to this day.
Working on anatomical preparations
Although the Anatomy Museum was mainly for training students and the science of anatomy, from 1930 onwards, when celebrating its tenth anniversary, the Museum opened its doors to a wider audience with its first public exhibition.
The first public exhibition of the Anatomy Museum
Museum for medical students
In 1950, when Riga Medical Institute was founded (today – Rīga Stradiņš University), the Anatomy Museum was included as part of the Department of Anatomy of the Institute which was managed by a Professor who came from Leningrad – Vasilijs Kalbergs (1893-1983), but from 1973 – Professor Genovefa Jēča (1921-2011). In these years the museum was mainly used for training of young physicians.
Museum and art
In 1980s thematic works of art were created in the Anatomical Theatre and Anatomy Museum which can still be seen in the building today. In 1984, under the leadership of artist and professor Indulis Zariņš, the monumental largest fresco in Latvia was created in the foyer of the Anatomical Theatre, dedicated to outstanding ancient physicians in the world and Latvia, while in 1988. seven beautiful stained glass windows were made for the windows of the Anatomy Museum, depicting the founders and initiators of the Anatomical Theatre and Anatomy Museum.
The fresco made by artists Vija Zariņa, Kaspars Zariņš, Kristaps Zariņš, Atis Kampars and Māris Leja
In 1987, the Anatomy Museum became a branch of Pauls Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine and preparator of the Department of Anatomy, Rūta Lindberga, (1926-2009) became its director. From 2000 the Anatomy Museum was managed by Medical Doctor and Anatomy lecturer Ilva Duļevska. During this time the collection of the Anatomy Museum was deemed of significant cultural and historical value and included in the National Museum Collection. In 2017, the Anatomy Museum concluded its long cycle of development by becoming a University museum yet again and returning to the shelter of its historical heir – Rīga Stradiņš University.
Photos from the Museum collection of Pauls Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine and Rīga Stradiņš University.