Our History (Peter Herdson Museum)


The collection of potted specimens, that later formed part of the current pathology museum, began in the 1950’s when the public pathology laboratory was part of the Institute of Anatomy (now the National Film and Sound Archive).

The oldest specimen in the museum dates from 1954. The collection expanded under Dr Ted Macarthur who was appointed head of Anatomical Pathology in 1959. With the completion of the Royal Canberra Hospital in late 1965 the specimens moved to a new site located in the pathology laboratory area at the Royal Canberra Hospital, Acton.

In September 1976 the specimens became housed in the grounds of Woden Valley Hospital, Garran (now Canberra Hospital) when the Department of Anatomical Pathology moved to Central Pathology Building (now Building 10, ACT Pathology) on the Woden Valley Hospital site. For some years the potted specimens were housed on level 5 of Building 10 in specimen display cabinets behind thick curtains co located with staff from the infectious diseases department. In 1991 Professor Peter B Herdson was appointed as Director of ACT Pathology. Significant reorganisation followed, including the development of a new Mortuary and formation of the Pathology Museum adjacent to the mortuary (level 1, Building 10 at Canberra Hospital).

Shortly thereafter, the Canberra Clinical School was established as part of the University of Sydney School of Medicine. The mortuary and Pathology Museum proved to be an important facility for medical students but was in great need of maintenance. Health Professional Officer (HPO) Mr Louis Szabo was appointed in July 1994 as the scientist in charge of the Mortuary and curator of the Pathology Museum. Louis worked very hard to catalogue and repot most of the older specimens.

In 2002 the Australian National University (ANU) Medical School was established and a surgical specimen teaching museum was created to compliment the Pathology Museum. This surgical specimen teaching museum, which includes unpotted and potted specimens, was the first of its kind in Australia and was the initiative of ACT Pathology pathologist Professor Jane Dahlstrom with support of the Director of Anatomical Pathology, Associate Professor Sanjiv Jain and other colleagues. A partnership between ACT Pathology, The Canberra Hospital and the ANU Medical School was formed with the crucial support of Professor Julia Potter who was Executive Director of ACT Pathology and Professor of Pathology, ANU Medical School.

HPO Ms Elaine Bean was appointed the organ donation co-ordinator. This involved writing to patients to ask for consent to include their specimen in the museum, photographing specimens and maintaining the database for all donated specimens. Louis commenced potting some of these consented specimens. In 2007 HPO Mrs Adrienne Heckenberg took on the role of curator of the Pathology Museum after Louis moved to a new role in ANU Medical School. Under Adrienne’s stewardship many of the older museum specimens have continued to be repotted, new specimens mounted and a comprehensive cataloguing system established. ACT Pathology and the ANU Medical School are very proud of the Pathology Museum. In commemoration of Professor Herdson’s contributions to ACT Pathology the Pathology Museum was renamed in his honour in September 2005. The museum provides an invaluable modern teaching and learning centre for medical students, nursing students, health professionals and postgraduate trainees. Specimens are utilised as part of the ANU Medical School’s anatomical pathology program across its four years. Specimens travel to rural locations as part of the teaching program and a small number now live at various rural clinical schools as a result of a small grant from HealthWorkforce Australia in 2012 initiated by Professor Amanda Barnard, Head of the Rural Clinical School, ANU Medical School and Professor Jane Dahlstrom. The museum has also become an important part of ACT community education programs, involving High Schools and other educational organisations including the Cancer Council.

Medical staff and students at the ANU are increasingly looking for on-line educational resources to supplement their education. In 2012 Mr Jonathan Sen, a medical student, began the work of developing an on line version of the museum. With the invaluable assistance of Mr Vojislav Zeljković and Mr Miloš Pašić this became a reality in 2016. With the establishment of this site, it will not only assist the Canberra based ANU medical students and staff but also all rural ANU Medical School campuses, who in the past have had only limited access to such resources.


The Museum Today


The potted museum today has over five hundred specimens in its collection, all with a clinical summary relating to each case while more than 1000 specimens form part of the “wet specimen” collection.


The Future


The Peter Herdson Pathology Museum is a work in progress and we hope to continue adding many new specimens to our collection in the future.
We can’t thank enough past, present and future donors and their families for their generous contributions to the museum.




The Peter Herdson Pathology Museum is located in Building 10 on level one of The Canberra Hospital, and is open between 7.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday. Access is restricted to ANU medical students and is not for general public viewing. Postgratuate, allied health professionals and legitimate educational visits are welcome and can be organised by contacting us.


Contributors to the Museum


Special thanks to

  • Mary Abbey
  • Elaine Bean
  • Narelle Brodie
  • Dr Alexandra Currie
  • Prof Jane Dahlstrom
  • Dr Mitali Fadia
  • Dr Ruta Gupta
  • Adrienne Heckenberg
  • Dr Michelle Maddock
  • Dr Rose Miller
  • Dr Sheenu Mishra
  • Dr Jonathan Sen
  • Dr Ebony Smith
  • Dr Jonathan Smiles
  • Louis Szabo
  • All the staff of Anatomical Pathology at The Canberra Hospital

for their contributions to the Peter Herdson museum.

  • Vojislav Zeljković
  • Miloš Pašić  

for their webdesign and maintaince of the Pathology Museum site


  • The Peter Herdson Pathology Museum is located in Building 10 on level one of The Canberra Hospital, Yamba Drive, Garran ACT 2605
  • Email: [email protected]