Museum Vrolik is a museum of anatomy located in the medical faculty of the University of Amsterdam Medical Centre in Amsterdam Zuidoost.
The art of preserving and exhibiting anatomic specimens in alcohol and similar solutions dates back to the 17th century. Amsterdam anatomist, zoologist and botanist Frederik Ruysch (1638-1731) was one of the pioneers of this technique of preservation. His vast collection of bottles, jars and boxes of anatomic specimens was sold to Tsar Peter the Great in 1717, and shipped to Saint Petersburg, where it is still exhibited.
Gerard and Willem Vrolik
Museum Vrolik was named after the 18th and 19th Amsterdam based professors of anatomy Gerard Vrolik (1775-1859) and his son Willem Vrolik, also director of the Amsterdam Hortus Botanicus.
Their privately built collection or "cabinet of curiosities", based at their Grachtengordel home, was composed of both normal and pathological anatomic specimens of both humans and animals. This "Museum Vrolikianum" then formed the basis of the collections currently exhibited at the Museum Vrolik.
After the death of Willem Vrolik in 1863 the collection was donated to the Amsterdam institute of higher education - the Athenaeum Illustre -, which was later to become the University of Amsterdam.
The Museum collection was expanded by several other Academic scholars and professors of medicine from Amsterdam over the past three centuries.
Since 1984 the Museum has been located at the Amsterdam Medical Center which is the Academic Hospital of the University of Amsterdam.
Anatomy and history
Although the Museum Vrolik is not for the feint of heart, there is plenty to see for those with a healthy interest in human and animal anatomy and not too easily disconcerted by anatomical specimens of rare congenital abnormalities.
Both the normal development of babies in the womb can be observed in specimens from embryo to fetus, as well as developmental defects, resulting in rare malformations such as cyclopia and Siamese twins.
The lasting effects of common diseases in the 18th and 19th century Amsterdam, such as tuberculosis, syphilis and rickets, can be observed on the skeletons and organs collected and prepared by the Vroliks and their fellow collectors.
The Vroliks and their successive collectors also brought together a large collection of zoological samples among which many prepared animal skeletons, skulls and specimens, mostly of monkeys and apes.