What exactly is Le Musée de la Main?

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The hand is one of the most important parts of the human body; it allows us to complete tasks that are unique to our species and separates us from animals. Hands are overworked and unappreciated by many, however, there is a place in Switzerland that honors the hand. Located in the heart of Lausanne, Le Musée de la Main (literally translated to “museum of the hand” was founded by Professor Claude Verdan in 1997. Le Musée de la Main celebrates the hand in its entirety.

 
 
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Who is Professor Claude Verdan?

Professor Claude Edouard Verdan (1909-2006) was an innovator in the reconstructive hand surgery community. He graduated from medical school as a doctor in 1933 in Lausanne, followed by a number of postgraduate courses in Geneva and Zurich.

After becoming an FMH specialist, Pr. Verdan began a career at the University of Lausanne as the surgical polyclinic director. During this time, Claude Verdan focused mostly on the after-effects of serious hand trauma. In 1946, he founded the Surgical Clinic and Permanence de Longeraie and was responsible for emergency situations. For 30 years, Pr. Verdan innovated new techniques, published multiple articles and books on hand surgery and was a part of the Congress of Specialists.

 
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Why Did Professor Claude Verdan establish Le Musée de la Main?

Over his years of medical service, Pr. Verdan collected hundreds of items related to hands. These items included paintings, sculptures, tools, and hand-related writing which gave him the idea to open a museum. Thus started his foundation in 1981. The first exhibition took place at the Musée de l'Elysée. However, the foundation struggled for over 16 years to find a permanent location for the museum. Eventually, after some help from his good friend Maurice Muller, Le Musée de la Main was established in 1997.

What does Le Musée de la Main do today?

Le Musee de la Main is home to over 1400 individual installations. Many of these installations were a part of Professor Claude Verdan’s personal collection, along with a number of gifts and legacies. The 1400 installations include sculptures, casts, paintings, engravings, blood, photographs, prints, posters, tools, prostheses, anatomical pieces, various objects and utilities adorned with hands and more.

At the moment, the collection is not exhibited at the Musée de la Main, as they have been loaned out to other museums and institutions for display or study.

We do a lot with our hands; we build with them, we communicate with them and we write with them. They are an under-appreciated but necessary part of the body. Thankfully, Professor Claude Verdan was as passionate about the extremities as he was and gave people a place to educate themselves about hands. Professor Verdan dedicated his life's work to learning about hands and the specific details as to how they function. Being able to see his personal collection up close is an outstanding experience for anyone that is passionate about hand surgery or hands in general.