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Anatomy: A Matter of Death and Life

Client: National Museum Scotland

The history of anatomy, from fine art explorations of the Italian Renaissance through high status science to the infamous activities of Edinburgh murderers Burke and Hare, was laid out in our evocative ‘mise en scène’ exhibition design for National Museums Scotland.


The scheme, with its muted palette, conjures specific places and times for each room with simple but impactful elements: walls that deepen in shade as the narrative turns darker: theatrical set pieces; wall-sized illustrations, photos and videos; and graphic ‘windows’ taking the visitor through time and place from Renaissance Florence for Leonardo da Vinci’s early explorations, C18th Leiden for the pioneers of anatomical education, and Enlightenment Edinburgh where medical science advanced. This device is then deployed most powerfully in an installation of ‘candlelit windows’ of Georgian homes overlooking a space that represents Greyfriars’ cemetery where many of the grave-robberies took place, right under peoples’ noses.

After an even darker turn with the account of Burke and Hare, the presentation lifts in tone, relating the regulations that followed the Anatomy Act of 1832 and the establishment of the NHS in 1948. A clever triptych AV installation looks at current practices, where people gladly bequeath their remains for the benefit of scientific enquiry and the nation’s health.


Through the elegance, economy and clarity of our design we allow the full drama, in all its grit and scientific glory, to take centre stage.


Our role:

  • Exhibition design

  • Graphic Concept Design with Surface 3

  • Overseeing installation

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