Collaborative Research

Thackray Museum of Medicine is committed to fostering and enabling collaborative research in partnership with individuals, scholars and academic communities.

We welcome the opportunity to share our expertise and make our extensive collections of medical objects and literature available for the advancement of knowledge and understanding about the history of medicine.

This important area of our work actively supports our legal and charitable objective, part of which is to ‘advance the education of the public in matters relating to medical treatment and products’.

The wide-ranging studies carried out by the PhD students we work with (funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council) have often resulted in innovative temporary exhibitions at the Thackray Medical Museum, as well as enhancing our permanent exhibitions and educational work with schools.

Our current research priorities are:

  • Innovation in medical devices
  • Hearing, deafness and audiology
  • Understanding the body and diagnostic devices
  • How museum collections can be used to support science teaching in schools

Read more about the projects on our blog.

Medical Literature

Surgical Literature

The Museum library includes a large collection of historical textbooks that illustrate equipment and techniques from the 1500s to the present day.

The 15,000-volume collection also contains pharmacopoeias, histories of medical institutions and organisations, biographies, local and trade directories and general books covering most aspects of the history of medicine.

Microfilm copies of London trade directories from 1800 to 1900 are also available.

Commercial Literature

The Museum’s commercial literature collection contains items relating to all aspects of the international medical supply industry. For example ‘quack’ or fringe medicine, pharmacy and surgical instrument manufacturers.

Items range from single sheet flyers and advertising material to 2,000 page catalogues and date from the 1700s to the present day. This collection is unique in its size and breadth of coverage. We also keep microfiche copies of manufacturers’ catalogues held by other museums.


We have a growing archive relating to the healthcare industry. It includes 20th century material from the Thackray medical supply company and other medical supply firms, as well as a collection of pre-NHS pharmacy prescription books dating to the 1800s.

We also have a small but interesting collection of photographs that illustrate public health problems in Leeds between 1930 and 1970.