From the “materia medica” to the modern medicament
The next big theme follows after the “Crown Pharmacy”. With the help of an exceptional collection of valuable drugs of the 17th to the 19th century you‘ll find the basis of pharmaceutical production in 28 show cases. More than 1000 exhibits of raw materials are representing the range of medical substances of this period: the “materia medica”.
There are long forgotten miracle cures like unicorn, mummy, or the universal remedy called “theriac” containing opium and more than 200 other ingredients. This imposing collection takes the visitor back to times long gone by. The room is divided into the three “kingdoms of nature” (regnae naturae) according to the historical classification: the kingdoms of minerals, of plants, and of animals.
The application of the plant, mineral, or animal substances may often seem peculiar for us, but it was involved in a conclusive medical system corresponding to the knowledge of that time. The often difficult ways of trade, too, are clearly explained on which the raw materials came out of most distant countries into the different dispensaries.
The medicaments were handed out to the patients in various forms in order to ease the taking – tablets weren’t used until the middle of the 19th century and plasters differed much from today’s ones. So in the section “forms of medicaments” original equipment like machines to make a plaster or to gild pills illustrates the different means of production.
Connections between medical raw materials used in the past and modern medicine demonstrate that the medicaments of the 21st century wouldn’t be imaginable without the age-long experience of our ancestors and their discoveries. Today, even after various drugs (medical substances) of the range at that time aren’t used anymore, the correspondence of medicaments for instance of plant origin is definitely obvious.
With the Merck Collection situated in a large window recess we present a combination of raw drugs which were imported from overseas by the Merck Company, still young at that time, in order to analyse the medical substances and to produce them synthetically afterwards. So this collection doesn’t only stand for the way from the private pharmacist’s shop – the Angel Pharmacy at Darmstadt – to pharmaceutical industry – the E. Merck Company KG – but it also attracts us with its exotic materials as well as their very uncommon looking packaging.
After this overall view of medical drugs and their application the tour leads into a large room whose cross vaults rest on mighty pillars so that it constitutes an appropriate setting for the exhibited pharmacy furnishings. Here the next main theme starts: “The pharmacist’s shop as a work-place”. We present three important parts: the officina, the room for crushing herbs or other materials, and the laboratory.