Culture Victoria

University Of Melbourne, Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum

Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne 720 Swanston Street Melbourne Phone: 03 9341 1518 Visit Website

The Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum is the most significant and oldest dental collection in Australia, tracing its origins back to the Odontological Society of Victoria established in 1884. The museum collects, conserves, manages, exhibits and promotes the history and material culture relating to the development of dentistry and dental education in Victoria, while reflecting more broadly the history and development of dentistry in Australia.

Exhibition Program

The museum hosts a program of exhibitions drawn from the collection and beyond, with special changing displays to meet the curriculum needs of dental students. Exhibitions will be of interest to University staff and students, patients from the Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne, the general public, and others with an interest in the history of dentistry and the social history of health care in Victoria.

Our Collection

Objects in the collection date from the early 1700s and provide key insights into the material culture, pedagogy, professional context, changes and developments in the dental profession and its striving to improve the standard of dental education, dental health and dental care within Victoria.

This intriguing collection contains examples of; surgical and laboratory instruments and equipment, hand wound and hydraulic dental chairs, free standing dental units, x-ray units from the early 1920s, flattening rolls, vulcanisers, flasks and hot presses. Other material includes a comprehensive series of dental catalogues dating from the 1850s, a fascinating range of dentures made from bone, ivory, porcelain and vulcanite, some which have springs and include human teeth. There are photographs of staff and students as well as buildings and events from the history of the dental school.

Online catalogue:

The collection of the Henry Forman Atkinson Dental Museum is considered to be the most comprehensive and significant in Australia as it contains both an archival and object record of the development of dental education, research and practice in Victoria. The significance is enhanced by the inclusion of material relating to the efforts of early pioneers such as John Iliffe, founder of the Melbourne Dental Hospital, and their struggles with governments for means to care for the dental needs of the poor, school children and the community at large. The records show a continuous striving to meet the demands for treatment and to improve it at all levels with varying degrees of success, such as the first government grant of funds in 1925, and the more recent fluoridation of the public water supply. The early furnishings and instruments in the collection were mainly imported and cover a much wider time span, as some are from the 1700s and dramatically confirm changes in treatment from the tooth-drawer to the oral surgeon, from the ?stopper?, using hand instruments and lead, tin or gold foil, to the modern plastics, from carved bone or ivory to porcelain and precision-cast alloys and implanted appliances.

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