The Musée d’Anatomie Delmas-Orfila-Rouvière is located on the 8th floor of the Faculty of Medicine, Paris V René Descartes University. It’s the largest anatomy museum in France. Its history dates from 1794 when Honoré Fragonard, demonstrator and professor of anatomy, collected specimens for the Faculty of Medicine of Paris’s new anatomical cabinet.
Although the city had contained earlier, amateur collections, including a set of more than 1000 wax anatomical models bequeathed by Jean-Baptiste Sue to the École des Beaux-Arts, these earlier collections were dispersed during the French Revolution.
The cabinet’s anatomical collection was reorganized and vigorously expanded by Mathieu Orfila, the dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris since 1832. In 1844 he established a museum, which 3 years later was formally inaugurated and named the Musée Orfila in his honour. By 1881 it contained nearly 4500 items. Unfortunately, during the early 20th century, the museum fell into great disrepair. In 1947, however, Professor André Delmas began an effort to restore and greatly enlarge the Musée Orfila, conjoining it with the Musée Rouvière. Since 1953 the museum has occupied the vast exhibition halls and galleries of the eighth floor of the Faculty of Medicine.
Today’s museum contains about 5,800 human and animal anatomical items. It has a wide range of anatomical specimens, including a small monkey preserved in 1797; brains of birds, mammals, and humans, including the brains of children, criminals, and representatives of various races, as well as Fragonard’s own brain.
Among the exhibits you can find showcases of comparative anatomy of reptiles and birds, casts of the heads of criminals executed during the 19th century, a collection of skulls from asylums for the mentally ill, major exhibits of different stages of growth of the skeleton, splanchnology (casts of livers, hearts, lungs, and trachea), and of the viscera and major vessels of the human body; and displays of malformations of the brain caused in rats, lymph systems, kidney structure, trachea, oesophagus, and liver. It also includes the Spitzner collection, a famous set of anatomical wax models dating from the 19th century.