Collection of medical objects in glass

The pharmaceutical collection "Dittrichiana"

The so-called "Dittrichiana" is one of the most extensive collections of objects of plant and animal origin used in medicine in the German-speaking world and has been housed at the University of Innsbruck for more than 100 years.

The majority of the objects were collected in the second half of the 19th century by the pharmacist Josef Dittrich (1818-1898) in Prague, whose private collection is said to have comprised some 30,000 exhibits by the end of his life. However, a not inconsiderable number of the objects were lost after Dittrich's death and the remaining collection was purchased by Josef Nevinny (1853-1923), who also came from Prague. Between 1893 and 1922, Nevinny held the chair of pharmacology and pharmacognosy at the University of Innsbruck. Thus the collection came into the possession of the university. Under Maria Kuhnert-Brandstätter the Institute of Pharmacognosy moved in 1982 from Peter-Mayr-Str. 1/1a to the Josef-Moeller-Haus at Innrain 52c and the collection was given its own showroom. Since 2016 the "Dittrichiana" has been housed in a new museum room on the 2nd floor of the Josef Moeller House. Today the collection comprises more than 10,000 exhibits from all over the world, which are or were either used in medicine, as home remedies, food or are or were of technical importance.

However, Dittrich also collected objects from the natural kingdom which are notable for their peculiar shape or special properties. About 95% of the items collected are of plant origin and 2% of animal origin. The rest comprises historically interesting synthetic medicinal substances, preparations, medicine containers and working utensils such as scales, pill boards and mortars. The herbal exhibits come from far more than 3,000 species, with certain representatives such as cinchona bark, black tea, cotton or rice being represented by up to 100 or more different samples.

Worth mentioning in this context are also more than 50 different indigo samples (blue dye, blue jeans) and 20 samples of cochineal lice, which were and are used to colour food (Campari) due to the red and non-toxic dye carminic acid. Unique is also the extensive stock of about 2,000 wood samples from all regions of the world. Among the curiosities of the collection are a stuffed Nile lizard, a mummy canvas, bird nests from India, China and Java, rubber shoes from 1855, turtle eggs, prepared shark fins, the tail of a Zibeth cat and a puffer fish from the Nile. There is also the "horn of a unicorn", whose use as a versatile remedy goes back in particular to the treatises of Hildegard von Bingen in the 12th century. However, the horn does not originate from the mythical four-legged fairy tale creature, but from the narwhal, which is also known as "unicorn of the sea."

The "Dittrichiana" represents a large part of the natural products used in medicine, dietetics or technology and thus a piece of knowledge culture and human history.




Department of Pharmacy
Innrain 52c, Josef Moeller House
6020 Innsbruck

Department of Pharmacy

Collection management

Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Ulrich Griesser
Department of Pharmacy
T: +43 512 507 58650

Literature on the collection

Dittrich, Josef: The Pharmacognostic Collection of the pharmacist Josef Dittrich in Prague. Set up to celebrate the third general assembly of the Austrian General Association of Pharmacists, Prague 1863.

Kuhnert-Brandstätter, Maria: The Dittrichiana from Prague in the Institute for Pharmacognosy at the University of Innsbruck, in: Österreichische Apothekerzeitung 39, p. 403ff.

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