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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Royal Perth Hospital Museum

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

Sometimes visiting a museum that was never on your list, can entertain and educate, and make you glad you took the time to visit. My recent visit to the Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) museum definitely met these criteria. There are many small museums in Perth and in my year here, I plan to visit them a lot of them. Museums help you review and learn from the past whilst contemplating the future.

Entry is free at the RPH museum, located at Level 2, M Block, Murray St, Perth WA 6000, and open 9am – 2pm Wednesday and Thursdays. The museum is definitely worth a visit. It will take around two hours to peruse the marvellous collection of medical equipment from bygone days.

RPH is the oldest tertiary hospital in the state, opening in 1855. Museum photos show early buildings and various additions over the years. The original Hospital building still exists and is heritage listed, but extensions to the hospital have hidden it from street view. It now houses the medical library and offices.

Before 1989 old items at the hospital were stored in the hospital attic. The hospital made space available for a museum, and the museum has been in operation since then, over 30 years. The majority of items on display have been given by the Royal Perth Hospital, and some people have donate items, especially families of doctors who have worked here.

Admission and discharge records here go back to 1876. Board minutes from 1905 onward are also archived here. The museum gets inquiries from people who are looking for information, especially those studying genealogy.

An amazing display of dolls dressed in various nurses uniforms over the years shows how times and policies in uniforms have changed.

There are early anesthetic equipment and pharmacy items found here that make me glad I live in the 21st century. In their time they would have been welcomed for their innovation. It makes me wonder, what will replace our current medical equipment, and in one hundred years, what amazing machines and leaps in health care will there be?

There are delicate glass x-ray tubes that were hand blown at the hospital from the 1920s, and have miraculously survived intact for one hundred years.

Old incubators, old uniforms and historical photos of the previous matrons can also be found here. From the photos of the first medical trained matron Mary Nicolay who was trained under Florence Nightingale, to the modern matrons, you can see the change in dress and styles over the years. Some of those early matrons in those photos were quite fierce looking.

Dialysis machines from the 1970s, early incubators and historical uniforms are also on display here.

Personal stories are always interesting, and the saga of Paul Berry is told in one of the rooms here, along with an iron lung from the 1950s. Paul contracted polio in the epidemic of 1956, at the age of 27. He spent most of the last 49 years of his life in an iron lung, and learnt to paint with his feet. Some of his talented paintings are displayed here too. It is hard to imagine his life when you look at the machine.

The staff are very knowledgeable and eager to share their knowledge with visitors. It was a great way to spend a few hours learning more about the earlier days of Perth, Western Australia. If you get a chance to visit, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Happy Travels!

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