In the 1960’s, in the era of optimism after the Second World War, the University of Edinburgh controversially demolished many of the old buildings around George Square as part of its post-war campus redevelopment. Some of the new buildings such as the Library built between 1965 and 1967 to designs by Sir Basil Spence + Glover & Ferguson are now considered exemplars of modern university architecture and have themselves become listed buildings.
Edinburgh University library has its origins in the late 16th century and its Special Collections alone has about 200,000 items. The new building in George Square opened in 1967. Designed by Sir Basil Spence to look like a bookcase, it was the largest university library in the UK with each floor an acre in size. To bring it in line with modern library requirements along with necessary repairs and services replacement, Lewis and Hickey carried out a £37 million, 7-year phased refurbishment of the 28,000 sq m building which was completed in April 2013, respecting the original design while creating a new Special Collections, Archive and Research Centre area, a new 220 seat cafe and a mezzanine gallery and exhibition space.
The gallery on the ground floor holds exhibitions relating to the University’s collections and to subjects in which it is active, potentially crossing boundaries between disciplines. The current exhibition “Visual Dissection – The Art of Anatomy” explores how artists and illustrators have depicted the anatomy of humans and of horses, with examples from the sixteenth century until today, including a 16th century anatomical statue of a horse from the circle of Giambologna and an illustration of the anatomy of the horse by George Stubbs a century later. Plaster and resin models and a cabinet of phonological attributed to William Batty in around 1831 lead up to the latest technology of a three dimensional anatomical hologram, believed to be the first such teaching hologram in the world, and three dimensional printing.
Curated through the university’s internship programme, this exhibition draws on material from the collections of the University of Edinburgh Anatomical Museum, much of which has never been on public display before.