A Digital Museum
Digitizing an entire pathology museum to provide unlimited access to specimens
Luke Turner | | Quick Read
Established in 1959, the F.A. Hadley Pathology Museum at the University of Western Australia is home to over 3,500 pathology specimens. These cover a wide variety of pathological processes and include all of the human body systems. On the face of it, the collection is a vitally important resource for teaching and learning – but, unfortunately, its educational impact is limited due to access restrictions, heavy and fragile tissue specimens, and few experts to demonstrate specific disease processes. Thanks to a new project, those restrictions are about to be lifted…
The Pathology Education and Learning Centre (PELC) aims to catalog the entire collection of specimens in an online database. High-resolution images and the original pathology findings are available on the PELC, which classifies specimens according to the Systematized Nomenclature of Pathology – the original system used in the museum. Each specimen provides information on the clinical history of the patient, microscopic and macroscopic findings, and the original diagnosis.
Rather than running traditional “bottle tutorials” – requiring access to the physical specimens and a large amount of space – the PELC allows students to explore the specimens at any time, in any place. The high-quality images showcase the specimens in more detail and with more clarity than would be possible from holding the glass bottles. With the ultimate goal of delivering insight and showcasing discoveries to improve the future health of society, the PELC shares valuable knowledge with the wider community to highlight the importance of pathology in healthcare delivery.
Although the primary target audience of the PELC is students from school year eight (ages 12–14), the specimens provide a valuable resource for students of all ages and practitioners in health-related disciplines. For this reason, the PELC is freely available worldwide; users just need to register before accessing the entire database. Its creators are working to secure partnerships and further funding to ensure long-term sustainability.
Over 1,200 specimens are already available through the PELC, 30 percent of which contain images. The future ambition is to focus on high-quality content – including photography – as well as functionality to provide a seamless, enjoyable, and rewarding learning experience. Those behind the project hope to have the whole F.A. Hadley Pathology Museum collection of 3,500 specimens on the PELC by the end of 2020.