Anatomical Collections

The National Museum of Health and Medicine is one of the few museums in the United States that collects and displays human remains. Founded in 1862 to document the effects of war wounds and disease on the human body, the museum has a long history of collecting and preserving human remains from military and civilian sources. Today, the Anatomical Collections comprise four types of materials:

  1. anatomical and pathological specimens;
  2. fluid preserved gross anatomical and pathological specimens;
  3. medical research collections containing histological slides, tissue blocks, and
  4. related archival materials.

The Anatomical Collections serve as a repository of historically and medically significant specimens and provides a rich source of data for researchers in forensic medicine, anthropology, pathology, paleopathology, and military medicine. The collections have formed the foundation of many studies by museum staff and outside researchers.

Specimens comprising the Anatomical Collections are available for research, exhibition, and other educational purposes. The collections are open for research from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday except federal holidays. Access to the collections is by appointment only. The historic and scientific value of the Anatomical Collections requires that we carefully balance the needs of continued scientific, historical, and forensic investigations with our responsibility to preserve the past for future generations. Therefore, we require that researchers talk with collections staff about their research before arriving at the museum. Researchers interested in using the Anatomical Collections should contact the collections manager by sending an e-mail to