Institution 41

First Hunterian Museum

opened 1804 – closed 1869


The first Hunterian Museum faced out over the University gardens, on the east side of the third courtyard of the College of Glasgow buildings on High Street. Designed by William Stack of Edinburgh, it was widely considered to be the finest neoclassical building in Britain at the time. Its foundation stone was laid on 1st August 1804, and it opened to the public on the 26th August 1808 (Macgregor 1881: 387-389; Gordon 1872, II: 654-656). It was demolished with the rest of the first university site in 1869 to make way for railway sidings. It is to the credit of the Hunterian’s first Superintendent James Couper that he undertook the formidable task of arranging Hunter’s vast collection for display in less than a year and had the foresight to incorporate a variety of cultural material in the displays.

Capt. John Laskey’s (1813) General Account of the Hunterian Museum is informative on Couper’s first display arrangement. Those collections which concern us here were displayed in Case 2 of the Apartment on the Left of the Saloon, with one Tahitian barkcloth beater (GLAHM:E.439/1) hung on the internal wall of the Hall of the Elephant among various other weapons and tools in the founding collection (Laskey 1813: 20-21, 71-72). Of the former, Laskey (ibid.: 20) wrote: “Glass case, No.2 contains principally the admirable and curious articles collected during the voyages of Captains Cook, King, &c. in the South Seas…[including] a great number of specimens of PLAIN CLOTH from Otaheite and other of the Friendly Isles. With PAINTED or STAINED CLOTH from the Sandwich, New Zealand and Marquesas Islands”.


  • Laskey, J.C. (1813). A general account of The Hunterian Museum, Glasgow: including historical and scientific notices of the various objects of art, literature, natural history, anatomical preparations, antiquities &c. in that celebrated collection. Glasgow: John Smith and Son




Date of Opening


Date of Closing



Entry created on 28 August 2020