The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia has invited a Military Attaché from the Australian Embassy for an in-person visit and tour, where the skull of an Australian soldier from WW1 will be presented for subsequent interment by the Australian Army.
The Museum was first contacted by the Australian Army in August 2017 regarding the skull, which was given to the Museum in 1919 by the British government, supervised by the British Medical Services. The skull was given as part of a collection intended for study by military doctors conducting reconstructive surgery on soldiers.
The Mütter Museum has invited Brigadier S.L Gabriel, DSC, Military Attaché of the Embassy of Australia, to visit the collection and to hear of the Museum’s efforts and commitment to medical history preservation and scientific research. Brigadier Gabriel has accepted the offer, and during the visit will take possession of the skull on behalf of the Australian Army.
In a letter to the Museum, Brigadier Gabriel stated, “I very much appreciate [the Museum’s] understanding and respect for the nature of this request and the considerable detail [they] have provided…including how this has directly contributed to the development of military medicine capabilities.
“The repatriation and interment of Private Hurdis’ skull is consistent with our ongoing efforts to recover, identify and formally inter human remains of our fallen from all conflicts, notwithstanding our affirmative recognition that the accession, stewardship and use of the skull is entirely consistent with the applicable laws and protocols.”
Robert Hicks, PhD, Director of The Mütter Museum and the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia stated, “We can appreciate the position of, and are sympathetic to the mission of the Australian Army. The recovery of remains of soldiers who were lost in combat or died as prisoners of war is vital work.
“The Mütter Museum observes a high standard of care and respect regarding human remains, and our observances of relevant laws and protocols is consistent with best practice in United States museums.
“We have a close, ongoing relationship with the US States Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). They have high regard for our collection. We also have pathological specimens from United States soldiers who fought in the American Civil War, furnished to us by the United States Army for display and study.”
A date has not yet been formally scheduled for the visit and the presentation of the skull, but it is likely to be coordinated before the end of the year.
The Mütter Museum helps the public appreciate the mysteries and beauty of the human body while understanding the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.