Pathology goes digital

11 November 2011

Dr Jane YeatsFrom museum to showcase: Dr Jane Yeats in the new Pathology Learning Centre.

The field of study may not be everyone's cup of tea, but UCT's Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences is giving its Pathology Learning Centre an exciting overhaul, says curator Dr Jane Yeats. The centre is slowly becoming a fully modern facility.

Previously a pathology museum, the learning centre showcases all the specimens that had been on show. There, students can look forward to examining bottled specimens of every conceivable body part and phenomenon, from amputated limbs and diseased organs to a selection of internal parasites.

For a building with such a macabre image, the learning centre looks unexpectedly attractive. The walls are decorated with colourful murals produced by talented students from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, which contribute to a generally cheerful ambience.

While the centre is still in the process of being made over, Yeats and her colleagues have already taken steps to maximise its reach by digitising the entire collection.

Once complete, it will feature photographs of every specimen, complete with a description and a brief history. While online research is all good and well, Yeats encourages students to make full use of the facility, saying that examining specimens in the flesh, so to speak, is a wholly more fascinating experience than seeing pictures of them in textbooks.

"It's more exciting learning from real specimens," says Yeats.

The centre has generously made this open education resource available to everyone with access to an internet connection, under a Creative Commons Licence. But the website is still being tweaked, and much material still needs to be added.

The collection can be accessed on the digital pathology website.

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