The 7400 glass slides and negatives owned by Museum Vrolik have mostly been used to teach anatomy during the first half of the twentieth century. Many slides are photographs of images from books, but some of them are old X-ray pictures or photographs of museum collection (such as skulls). A second collection of glass slides was used by the dentist Grevers for the purposes of research and education.
Museum Vrolik manages a collection of about 200 special objects that are significant to the history of the Amsterdam University Medical Center and its forerunners. Examples include the old bell, historical stretchers, crockery and unique photo books of medical professors of some of the former hospitals of Amsterdam.
Our dentistry collection has been put together by dentists Grevers and De Jonge Cohen, and by the anatomist Bolk. The Grevers collection consists of 30 shelves of wax plates with teeth affected by diseases, plus a small number of skulls, historical dentures and forceps. De Jonge Cohen collected 260 plaster casts of abnormal teeth and Bolk collected 350 jaws with dental anomalies.
Museum Vrolik’s collection of instruments consists, for the most part, of roughly 500 instruments that have been used for the practical study of physiology at Amsterdam University during the first half of the twentieth century. A smaller collection consists of instruments for embryological research, such as microtomes and microscopes.
The osteological collection of Museum Vrolik consists of 3300 bones and is one of the museum’s largest collections. The oldest skeletal remains are those acquired by Hovius, Bonn and Gerard Vrolik. They mostly consist of bones that have been affected by diseases such as syphilis, TB and rickets. In addition, there are 1150 human skulls, including 330 ‘racial’ skulls acquired by father and son Vrolik and Bolk to do research on the alleged existence of human ‘races’.
Museum Vrolik manages a collection of 840 anatomical preparations of foetuses and newborns, most of which have congenital defects. This collection is relatively small, but strongly characterizes the nature of the museum. The anatomist who acquired the most congenital malformations was Willem Vrolik. Not only did he preserve foetuses as wet specimens, he also prepared dried skeletons and skulls.
The most important collectors of animal skeletons and skulls were father and son Vrolik and their successors Berlin, Fürbringer, Ruge and Bolk. Bolk alone was able to amass a collection of 740 monkey skulls. Since 2018, Museum Vrolik manages the collection of the zoological lab of the University of Amsterdam. The oldest pieces in this collection are Beauchêne skulls, or ‘exploded skulls’, of animals (see photo) that Willem Vrolik purchased in 1856.
The oldest animal specimens are part of the Vrolik collection and were largely collected by Willem. Most of them were obtained from the Amsterdam zoo, ‘Artis’. The anatomists Berlin, Fürbringer, Ruge and Bolk collected a large number of animal specimens as well. Since 2018, Museum Vrolik manages a collection of 1550 animal specimens from the zoological lab of the University of Amsterdam. Zoologist Max Weber was the most famous contributor.
The 1230 human anatomical preparations are the core collection of Museum Vrolik and were obtained between approximately 1750 and 1954. The oldest preparations, examples of pathological anatomy, were part of the collections of Bonn, Gerard Vrolik and the Amsterdam Klinische (‘clinical’) School ( 1835-1865). Later, Fürbringer, Ruge, Bolk and Woerdeman added preparations of gross anatomy for teaching purposes.
The 1620 plant specimens in fluid that were donated to Museum Vrolik in 2021 were collected by professors of botany, such as Gerard Vrolik, Oudemans and De Vries. The plants were obtained from the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam, which for centuries served as the centre of botany in Amsterdam. The collection includes a number of evening primrose specimens, collected by De Vries as part of his world-famous research on mutations.
The oldest plaster casts of the collection are casts of diseased body parts. Additionally, the museum owns 150 purchased plaster models of fossil hominid skulls, and 55 anatomy models, 18 of which were made by Blumenthal. The anthropological plaster models deserve a special mention: 17 ‘race busts’ acquired by Willem Vrolik and 140 plaster masks of inhabitants of Nias and Sumatra that were given to the museum by Kleiweg de Zwaan.
The collection of brain slices consists of about 22,000 wafer-thin slices of coloured brain tissue of many different types of vertebrates, kept in 1760 drawers. The collection was amassed between 1909 and 1945 by C.U. Ariëns Kappers, the first director of the Netherlands Central Institute for Brain Research (now: Netherlands Institute For Neuroscience). He also collected animal brains preserved in liquid. The collection was donated to Museum Vrolik by the Institute For Neuroscience in 2015.
Most of the 410 wax models owned by Museum Vrolik were used for education and research on the development of the embryo. Many of the models were bought between 1868 and 1930 from model maker Ziegler in Germany. From 1906 onwards, the anatomical assistants made their own embryo models by stacking thin slices of beeswax. Finally, Museum Vrolik owns five spectacular wax models of complete human torsos.