Our Collection

Erasmus Darwin House holds a number of objects which belonged to Erasmus and his family, which are on loan from organisations such as Lichfield City Council, Stoke on Trent Potteries Museum, Holburne Museum and English Heritage. His work covered a variety of subjects, from science and inventions to medicine and the education of women, and the collections reflect this, covering topics such as these and more!

studyThe museum has undergone two refurbishments since its opening in 1999 which have enabled us to better interpret the themes and display the objects. 18th-century furniture sits alongside traditional art and contemporary interactive exhibits. There are many stories to tell in this small house.

gamesOur most prized object is Darwin’s Common Place Book which gives us great insight into the mind of this amazing man. It is a large notebook on loan from English Heritage which contains Darwin’s own notes on his medical cases, his thoughts on such things as meteorology and botany, and some fantastic drawings of his inventions. A group of volunteers have recently completed a demanding project to transcribe the book for our visitors.

‘It was a privilege to transcribe Darwin’s original hand written notes… it felt like he was in the room and speaking the words!

A copy can now be found on the lectern in the Inventions Room which compares Darwin’s original page to a translated page, so now we can better understand his passion for medicine and engineering!

You will also find the Common Place Book as part of the British Museums Teaching History in 100 Objects project which provides resources for teachers who want to use museum objects as a way to interpret history.

Object of the month

Scarificator

This scarificator is a bloodletting tool used in cupping which appeared in the 17th century and became increasingly popular in the 18th & 19th centuries. It contains several lancets (knives) which move together to make light incisions in the skin. In scarification, the vessels close to the skin are attacked with a syringe or spring loaded lancet and, once cut, the blood could be removed using glass cups containing heated air which produced a vacuum.

The case is brass and the blades are steel. The blades are cocked by the lever on the top and the release in on the side. The blades then swing down and back inside making multiple incisions at once. Skill is needed to make sure the patient is not cut too deeply.

This object is part of a small collection of medical instruments on loan to the museum from Thackray Medical Museum http://www.thackraymedicalmuseum.co.uk/ . It can be seen in the Study in the bottom drawer of the medicine pod.