Growing Medical Capital

a family using a pestle and mortar to mix herbsThe Thackray Museum of Medicine first opened (as the Thackray Medical Museum) in 1997, in the former Leeds Union Workhouse building next to St James’s Hospital in Leeds. Co-founded by medical supplies manufacturer Paul Thackray and the physician and educator Professor Monty Losowsky, the museum is unique among medical museums in its independent status and outlook and in its ethos, founded on principles of collaboration and public education.

We believe passionately that the best way the museum can put its history, collection and building to the service of all is to help people to discover their own agency in the constantly evolving story of medicine and healthcare – growing not just a greater understanding of the history and science of medicine but also a greater awareness of how they can put that to their best use and a greater confidence to be able to do that across a wide range of situations. We describe this as growing medical capital.

  • We are an important resource for learning – supporting everything from Early Years STEM learning, through GCSE History of Medicine to post-graduate research
  • We are a unique part of Leeds City Region’s cultural and heritage offer, providing a destination for visitors, enhancing local amenity and providing added economic value
  • We are a fantastic first step into the wider world of medicine and healthcare for a great many – in some cases helping to ignite lifelong interests and careers
  • We are a place where people can come together with equal access and representation to share stories and work together for greater equity and justice

We offer a year-round, seven-day a week museum service that combines:

  • Immersive exhibitions – co-created with local communities and artists that showcase innovations in medicine and healthcare, tackle contemporary topics and give a platform to the most diverse range of voices, viewpoints and challenges
  • The Core – a community space for collaboration and partnership, supported by targeted programmes for new and under-represented audiences
  • The Nerve Centre – A year-round programme of formal and informal learning activities for a diverse range of schools, families and adult audiences. This work is supported by a fully integrated outreach and virtual learning offer
  • A collections and archive study centre, open to all
  • A state-of-the-art conference centre
  • ThackrayOnline – a growing platform of digital activities and online access to our internationally important medical collection

Since its foundation, partnership and research have been key underpinning principles that guide how we work. We continue to consult with bodies such as Leeds University School of Medicine and, through our research strategy, developed in partnership with the Thackray Medical Research Trust, we support an ongoing programme of research by individuals and researchers from medical schools, universities, community organisations and other museums. We are also an active partner in the UK Medical Collections Group.

Our collaborative ethos gives us the will to be agile when it comes to meeting community needs. During the COVID pandemic we were proud to have been the first museum in the UK to be able to host a vaccination centre and the first to host regular social prescribing clinics.

The Museum’s unique approach was recognized by its selection as a finalist for the 2021 Art Fund Museum of the Year – as shown in this video introduced by Dr Ranj Singh:

Next: Our Mission

For more information on our building’s past and our long, valued relationship with the Thackray family, please visit our History pages.