The Museum is located in the fifteenth-century palazzo that was home to the city’s first hospital. It was here that, for the first time in history, students of medicine began to learn and apply clinical practice in immediate contact with patients – an approach that laid the basis for the modern teaching of medicine. The Ospedale di San Francesco was a functioning hospital for almost four centuries, up to 29 March 1798, when its place was taken by the new Ospedale Giustinianeo, whose foundation was due to the bishop Nicolò Giustiniani.
Four rooms are dedicated to the birth and development of medical sciences. The narrative begins with anatomy and physiology, which made it possible to understand how the human body was structured and how it worked, and concludes with the study of pathology and therapeutics, which made it possible to explain what was wrong with a patient and then intervene accordingly.
Alongside exhibits reflecting the early days of medicine – lent by the University of Padua, the City Museums, the City Hospital and the town’s health authority – there are interactive videos and multimedia games that illustrate the themes covered in the different rooms. Splendid ancient books, to which the public normally has no access, can be ‘leafed through’ in virtual form; and games of varying degrees of difficulty teach human anatomy, medical terminology and the link between specific pathologies and pathogens. Interactive panels also encourage visitors to reflect upon the issues covered – both in terms of the history of science and in terms of their own health.
The Museum ends with a large modern Anatomical Theatre and two rooms used for temporary exhibitions on specific themes.