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On display

RPA Museum has numerous themed displays from showcases of RPA nursing and midwifery education, medical technology and memorabilia to a large collection of photographic images.

Gold Probe used on HRH Prince Alfred

1868 Bullet Probe
RPA Museum Image: Gold Probe used on HRH Prince Alfred

On the 12th of March 1868, while enjoying lunch at Clontarf, New South Wales, HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh was shot by Irish radical Henry James O’Farrell. Although significant the injury was only a flesh wound and the Prince would remain under assessment for two days. During these two days a surgical gold probe was constructed to locate the bullet.

Bullet probes are designed to help locate the bullet deep inside tissue by following entry point and trajectory. By inserting the probe and rubbing it against the bullet, the soft lead would leave tell tail marks on the probes end. This mark would differentiate it from bone which would not leave a grey mark on the probe after rubbing. It should be noted however that probes are never made of gold due to cost and low strength. The story surrounding the probe does seem more apocryphal than factual. Maybe a copy of the original probe used was made to commemorate his recovery in the same way replica gold bullets were presented to the attending surgeons.

Both Iron Lung

Both Iron Lungs
RPA Museum Image: Both Iron Lung

Iron Lungs were used to treat sufferers of anterior poliomyelitis (aka ‘polio’ or infantile paralysis). These patients had ‘paralysed’ lungs and could not breathe on their own. The earliest Australian epidemic of polio occurred in 1895, and the last in 1961. The Salk vaccine and the Sabine oral vaccine saw the end of Polio in Australia. The Both Respirator (pronounced Goth) displayed here is known as an ‘alligator’ iron lung because its lid opens like the jaws of an alligator to permit easy patient access. Before this modification was made in the mid 1950s, patients had to be inconveniently slid in and out of like drawers of a filing cabinet. Invented and made in Adelaide, the Both respirator, is made of plywood with an external electric air pump, and so was highly portable, simple and cheap.

World War II Nurse Primus Stove

Primus Stove
RPA Museum Image: World War II Nurse Primus Stove

This collapsible Primus Stove in tin container complete with instructions, spanner and penknife was made in Sweden and issued to Australian Army nurses in the Middle East and Greece during the Second World War. Nurses would assemble and dismantle the camp stove as required and carry it with them on their journey. This one made its way back to Australia with Myra May McLaren, an RPA Probationer Trainee Nurse.