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Over the past months and years the AMA(SA) Historical Committee has been diligently cataloguing and sorting through the raft of interesting and curious objects housed at the AMA(SA)'s Newland House headquarters, in particular the deceptively spacious Council Room cupboards.

This exercise has gleaned many new or forgotten finds and posed many fascinating questions such 'What is this?', 'What does it do?', 'Who gave it to us?' and 'Do we keep it?'.

Similar to cleaning out the attic of an elderly relative of uncertain memory but confirmed hoarding habits, the exercise has brought mixed emotions, from curiosity, to warm sentiment, to occasional mild horror, and a few in between. While many objects of interest come as no surprise – oil paintings that have long graced the walls, a china horse, and a brass implement no-one could identify, others have come as a complete and welcome surprise.

A good illustration is the bust of Sir Henry Newland of which, until a few days ago, nothing was known of its origins. Whilst rummaging amongst old AMA(SA) papers due for disposal in the proposed refurbishment of Newland House, the source of the bust was discovered quite fortuitously in a letter from the Australasian Medical Publishing Company Limited (AMPCo) to the SA Branch executive officer (Ian Dobbie) dated 19 July 1993. The letter reads “... at the conclusion of his Chairmanship of Australasian Medical Publishing Company Limited in 1964, a copper bust of Sir Henry Newland was commissioned of the sculptor, John Dowie”.

The bust was unveiled in a simple ceremony on 23 May 1965 and the event was recorded in the Medical Journal of Australia of June 26, 1965. The article noted “Sir Henry Newland, former Chairman of Directors of the Company from 1948 to 1964, was present at the ceremony”.

In recognition of Sir Henry’s stronger links to the SA Branch of the then BMA/AMA, the letter from the AMPCo of 19 July 1993 offered the bust to the SA Branch, in whose possession it has remained since August 1993. 

In all, the cataloguing and sorting process has been a fascinating exercise, and the results are now translated into a charming and insightful resource that is not just for history buffs, but anyone with time to spare and an active and interested sense of curiosity.

The Historical Committee’s Virtual Museum of medical and surgical artefacts donated by members of the AMA(SA) and members of the public is now complete and has been published on the AMA(SA) website. Great thanks are due to Dr Tom Turner, who has been the main compiler of the virtual museum and its commentary, but significant credit is also due to other members of the AMA(SA) Historical Committee during this period: Dr Trevor Pickering (its chair), Dr Dorothea Limmer, Dr Jeanette Linn and Dr Peter Kreminski. The Committee has also liaised with the South Australian Medical Heritage Society, which has been further developing its broader virtual museum.

We encourage you to check both out. The Committee remains glad to accept additions, comments or corrections, which can be directed to admin@amasa.org.au.

You can find the AMA(SA)'s virtual museum at the PDF below and can access the SA Medical Heritage Society's broader virtual museum here.

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