The Craven Street Bones

2016, Benjamin Franklin House, History, Permanent Exhibit
anatomy, archaeology, historic house museum, history, medicine, resurrectionists, science, trepanation
About This Project

Date: Opening in the summer of 2017

Partner: Benjamin Franklin House

Venue: Benjamin Franklin House – map

Project Members: Mallory Horrill


The exhibition, The Craven Street Bones, will explore the fascinating history of anatomical science and medical study that took place in Georgian London. The exhibition will showcase the artefact and bone remains of an 18th-century anatomy school. This is the first time that Benjamin Franklin House will reflect upon in great death its lesser known function as a Georgian anatomy school. The Craven Street Bones exposes an important point in history and situates its impact and legacy within present day.


This exhibition is geared towards a young adult and adult audience. The mature subject matter expressed in the exhibition, as well as the high reading level, make the display not suitable for younger audiences.


The exhibition will be held on the third-floor building extension at Benjamin Franklin House, destined to be completed in April of 2017. The Craven Street Bones will be exhibited in the new building of Benjamin Franklin House for it expresses an important period in the historic property’s existence.


Loan objects will come from The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons and the London Institute of Archaeology at the University College of London.


The planning for The Craven Street Bones exhibition began in early September of 2015. Towards the end of September, the research portion of the project began and took approximately four months. The research operations overlapped with the two-month process of organizing artefact loans and acquiring permissions for use of imagery. In February the drafting of the text for the exhibition information panels and artefacts labels was undertaken. The design and text went through several editing rounds and was finalized in mid-March. The printing of text, delivery of artefacts and installation of the exhibition is still yet to take place. The exhibition is anticipated to open in the summer of 2017.


The Craven Street Bones exhibition will feature five informational boards, which will be displayed on adjustable and movable easels. Each board will inform on an important aspect of the 18th c. anatomy school that once operated under the roof of Benjamin Franklin House. The boards will utilize both text and imagery to express its subject. The individual boards are written in a loose sequential manner so that they can be read individually or in the order that they appear. Easels will be used to hold the boards rather than affixing the boards to the walls so that the room can easily to be cleared to accommodate different exhibitions or simply to provide additional space. The exhibition will feature two display cases, the first to contain an 18th-century trepanation set, a microscope slide prepared by William Hewson and notes taken during one of Hewson’s lectures. The second display case will contain eleven bone fragments uncovered during the excavation works at Benjamin Franklin House in 1998. These artefacts will complement the informational boards as well as provide visitors with a three-dimensional viewing portion.


As the exhibition is to take place in the future, marketing has yet to be conducted. The opening of The Craven Street Bones will be celebrated in the summer of 2017 with an exclusive evening reception; invitations will be issued to donors, board members, the press and those who have lent their support to Benjamin Franklin House. Marketing of the exhibition to the general public will consist of announcements on the institution’s website and social media pages and through email updates to community organizations and past visitors who are a part the House’s mailing list. Benjamin Franklin House also intends to hold an evening event for those employed in the London museum sector.


The attendance of the exhibition will be monitored through the visitor recording system presently in use at Benjamin Franklin House. Visitation figures will not just reflect upon the popularity of the exhibition but the impact of increasing the size of Benjamin Franklin House. It is hoped that a larger institution with additional amenities such as a coffee shop, will see a rise in visitor numbers. The coverage of The Craven Street Bones in the media will be kept track of and analyzed for its effect on attendance.


I would like to thank both The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons and the London Institute of Archaeology at the University College of London for their loan of artefacts as well as their informed assistance with the subject matter. I would also like to issue a great thank you to the staff and volunteers at Benjamin Franklin House for their patience and support in realizing this project.