South Australian Medical Heritage Society Inc

Website for the Virtual Museum


Past meetings

About the

Galleries of the Virtual Museum

Main Galleries

Hospitals,other    organisations
Individuals of    note

Small Galleries


Ethnic medicine
     - Aboriginal
     - Chinese
     - Mediterran

Surgical bags & instruments


Source: Bags and instruments provided by a private collector.

In the first half of the last century the surgical care in South Australian public hospitals was provided by the Honorary System. Specialists provided up to 4.5 sessions a week in unpaid services. The hospitals provided all the necessary facilities and supporting staff ie. interns and registrars. In the private hospitals the surgeons charged for their services, but whilst the hospitals provided the theatre staff and some basic instruments, most surgeons carried their own instruments, sometimes from one hospital to another.They were sterilised and cleaned by the theatre staff before surgery, and subsequently stored in the theatre suite or taken to another hospital for use there. In addition to the surgical instruments the surgeons often carried apparatus for haemoglobin estimation & the white cell count, also for urinalysis for pre operative testing. Syringes and drugs for pain relief were also part of the equipment.

[See also the page labelled "Doctors Bags and Instruments"]


A collection of three old surgeon’s bags


A surgeons case showing multiple drawers of instruments


An open drawer showing miscellaneous instruments


Part of a general surgical set.


Doctor’s dressing set


Fine forceps, scissors. Scalpel handles, part of a pediatric set


Minor operations set, with needles and syringes for local anaesthetic.

Pipette & slide grid for estimating white cell count


Haldane haemoglobinometer


Mouth retractor, airways, and adenoid curette


Snake bite emergency kit with associated lancer, tourniquet,& dressings.

Doctor’s drug kit with morphine sulphate, hyoscine hypobromide, digitalis, atropine, & strychnine.

Dental forceps


London hospital catgut sutures.


Chromic catgut sutures with eyeless needles for intestinal surgery.& a collection of surgical needles

Microscope, bunsen-burner, ethyl chloride, and a spirit burner


Urine testing kit


Adjustable syringe & needles.(the shaft of the plunger is threaded with a stop, allowing adjustment for a predetermined minute dose

A rubber irrigation syringe & fine forceps


Metal irrigation syringes