During my visit back home to Thailand, I was privileged enough to be invited to the Siriraj Medical Museum to see and photograph the collections housed within the Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum and Congdon’s Anatomical Museum, which are both subsections of the Siriraj Medical Museum. I was incredibly honored to view these collections, as they are rarely open to the public and typically only anatomy students are allowed to view the specimens inside. While it is one of the largest osteological collections in the world, very few people are lucky enough to see it in person, and for this I feel very blessed.
The Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum houses a collection demonstrating causes of unnatural deaths. Founded by Dr. Songkran Niyomsane, many of the specimens are the remains of murder victims collected during the course of the doctor’s career as a forensic pathologist. The specimens contained within the museum are not only bones, but mummified remains, murder weapons, and various venomous snakes. This museum demonstrates the birth of forensic anthropology in Thailand, through the collection of one of its forefathers. A highlight for me was the demonstration of bullet entry wounds on cadaver skulls that helped broaden understanding of entry and exit wounds for the Thai people. Before these shooting experiments were conducted, Thailand had almost no knowledge of this kind of forensic reconstruction. The experiments allowed for subsequent crimes to be solved with much more certainty. This museum also used to house the remains of Thailand’s first known serial killer, who was a cannibal of children in the 1950’s.
The collection housed in Congdon’s Anatomical Museum was founded by Professor Edgar Davidson Congdon. In the 1920’s, the Rockefeller Foundation sent visiting instructors to teach at the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital. While the collection was originally commissioned by Professor Stump, he relocated to Australia before the building could be completed. Professor Congdon was his replacement, and ultimately finished the project. Now the collection houses thousands of organs, demonstrating the development of human anatomy from conception onwards. The highlight of this collection for me was the dissection of the nervous and arterial system performed by Dr. Patai Sirikarun, the only of its kind in the whole world.
My visit to the museum was an incredible opportunity for me as a bone-enthusiast, but also as a Thai citizen. Our culture is heavily influenced by our majority-Buddhist population, making cremation the most common funerary choice for Thai people. A collection of bones this large in a country that does not typically bury their people is a true marvel. If you have the opportunity to visit, I highly recommend it!