Pharmacy museums across the globe“

Author by Prashant Bhatt

Pharmacy is a field that has been around since a quite long time. It prevailed in ancient Greece, Egypt, India, China, Japan, Europe, Turkey, Baghdad e.t.c. it has been a long journey from crushing herbs and spices, to extracting products by various methods, to synthesizing drugs from synthetic materials, to formulating new molecules, to forming of new dosage forms that is so small that it is almost a nanoparticle. This field has made a huge journey in a very long time although with the help of various people and their research and hardwork.


Yet there has to be a certain evidence and records of such evolution over the years. Hence the museums mentioned bellow will add on to that information.


1. Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy (Florence, Italy) :

The Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy is probably the oldest still-operating pharmacy in the world, and certainly the oldest in Italy. It was established in 1221, when the Dominican monks from the adjacent Basilica of Santa Maria Novella began growing herbs to make balms, salves and medicines for their infirmary. The superior quality of their products became widely known, and in the 17th century, the pharmacy opened its doors to the public. There is also a small museum, with somewhat irregular hours, which features antique terra-cotta apothecary jars, however the best antiques are already on display in the shop itself.


2. New Orleans Pharmacy Museum (Louisiana, USA) :

In a two story historic building in the French Quarter of New Orleans, this pharmacy museum shows its expansive collection and provides educational programs on the history of pharmacy and health care. Among the holdings of the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, there is a large collection of apothecary jars containing their original ingredients, old wheelchairs, black leather physician’s bags, medical instruments, eyeglasses, optical prosthetic devices, and surgical tools all displayed in hand carved, glass-fronted cabinets.


3. Svaneapotek (Aalborg, Denmark) :

This was a pharmacy since the Renaissance era. That was a famous drug store back then too but as the technologies and the methods developed and the procedure for dispensing changed the older equipment got deposited into the attics and the store rooms and over a time the equipment and the materials that was stored sort of became a source for a museum.


4. Black Eagle Pharmacy Museum (Lviv, Ukraine) :

The front room of the Under the Black Eagle is still a functioning dispensary, and it’s from here that the pharmacy museum tour begins. Museum visitors can walk through 16 rooms to different historic eras of medicinal care, going back in time as they move further into the building. After paying a small entrance fee to the pharmacist, the pharmacy opens up to a wood-shelved room full of antique pharmacy equipment. There are mortars and pestles, various beakers, ornate scales, jars containing tinctures, elixirs, and other medicines, all from the 19th and 20th centuries. The material room contains various equipment for manufacturing medicine in earlier times like pill machines, drying cupboards, extraction presses, recipe manuals, etc. In a replica brewery the pharmacy still offers its “iron wine,” an ancient iron-boosted beverage said to raise hemoglobin in the blood.


5. Hintz House Museum Of Pharmacy ( Cluj-Napoca, Romania) :

For the last sixty years, the house has been a museum of pharmacy, holding within some of the most fascinating artifacts from a time when the lines between medicine and magic were still quite blurred. Known as the Hintz House, due to the legendary family of apothecaries who took over the pharmacy in 1863 and ran it until the communist take-over of 1949, the museum has a large collection of preserved specimens of substances — both organic and mineral — which apothecaries would use to treat illnesses hundreds of years ago. The purposes of these substances (such as the famous “mummy dust” for example) are explained in little notes, and the tour guide is very knowledgeable in addition.


6. Pharmacy History Museum & University of Basel (Basel, Switzerland): This “Pharmacy Museum” contains collections of old pharmaceuticals, pharmacy furniture, an alchemistic lab, laboratory utensils, and ceramic mortars. The house acquired a printing press, which compelled Erasmus, the humanist, and Paracelsus, the alchemist, to take residence there in the 16th Century. The museum has accumulated a comprehensive collection of obsolete remedies used before the 19th century, outdated pharmaceutical books, and art related to alchemy and pharmaceutical science.


7. Esteve Pharmacy (Lliva, Spain) :

The pharmacy of today is sterile, modest and efficient. Each bright orange medicine bottle is the same, and patients make their way in and out without lingering. However, 500 years ago, the local pharmacy was less science and more art, and the Esteve Pharmacy Museum in Llívia, Spain captures this ideal in the vibrant colors and luxury of a medieval European apothecary.

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