Heritage Open Days 2020: Bumping heads

Every September, Heritage Open Days celebrates our fantastic history, architecture and cultural heritage, giving everyone the chance to explore hidden places, discover fascinating stories and try out new experiences. This year, faced with the challenges of COVID-19, we are celebrating Heritage Open Days online with a special series of features on Culture on Call.

In this first feature, Ross Turle, our Curatorial Liaison Manager, explores the curious pseudo-science of phrenology in a specially produced film looking at a collection of nineteenth century phrenological plaster casts of heads taken from notorious criminals and others.

Phrenology tried to use the shape of people’s heads to interpret and predict behaviour. An obvious use of such a science was to explain criminal behaviour and many casts were taken from notorious criminals. Included in the collections looked after by Hampshire Cultural Trust are a number of casts believed to have been produced at Winchester prison by the prison surgeon. Although collected in Winchester, the casts include notorious criminals from across Hampshire and as far afield as Germany.

Note to viewers: Please be aware this film includes discussion of poisonings, including of children.


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Hampshire Cultural Trust

From museums to galleries to arts centres, we manage and support 23 attractions across the county, welcoming over 740,000 people each year. Our charitable purpose is changing lives through culture.
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