The UCT Department of Pathology holds an extraordinary collection of teaching specimens that have been accumulated over more than 80 years. These specimens are derived from surgical procedures or autopsies performed at Cape Town teaching hospitals. The collection has been digitised to provide a learning resource for health science students everywhere, but it is especially relevant for those studying at institutions in Africa.

The specimens can be viewed virtually via this website - note that we are still building the image banks, and specimen descriptions are being continuously reviewed and updated. To browse, select the appropriate catalogue from the menu above. There is also a global search option.

Please be respectful of the specimens and their images. Although anonymous now, they originate from real patients whose diseases were often distressing, painful and fatal.


10th Annual International RARE DISEASE DAY - 28 February 2017

Here are just 3 examples of the many rare diseases represented in our teaching collection

View the cases:   XVIII:i:7    III:iii:6    III:i:10        More about the Rare Disease Day at UCT


What happens to my blood sample?

August 2016 PLC School visits

Forty grade 10 learners from COSAT learned something about pathology from year 2 medical students.
Another forty learners from South Peninsula High spent a morning studying diseases relevant
to the grade 10 Life Sciences curriculum.

View (above) contemporary examples of parosteal osteosarcoma in this collection

XX:viii:116          XX:viii:60          XX:viii:69                         Journal article: Odes et al, South African Journal of Science

4000 images of 2945 pathology specimens now online - December 2015

Malignant melanoma with a halo in the surrounding skin,
a phenomenon that is thought to be immune mediated – specimen VII:iv:120


Our Virtual Microscope goes into action, as reported here by the UCT eResearch Centre
The online booking page is open.


The PLC is sheltering thousands of bottled pathology specimens in need of TLC.
There is a specimen that needs you.

We’d like to suggest you adopt one that has personal or professional significance.
A 5 year adoption costs R250 :: a lifetime adoption costs R1000.
To sponsor the restoration and maintenance of a member of this valuable collection, please go to the donations page
And contact the curator about the specimen you’d like assigned to you.


Year 2 MBChB students bottling new specimens for our teaching collection. This special studies project also requires them to accurately describe the specimens and write a well-researched commentary for the catalogue.


at World Health and Safety day at the Cape Town Stadium 28 April 2015, with staff of the
City of Cape Town’s Environmental Health unit. The bottles contain the tangible consequences of smoking.


at World Health and Safety day at the Cape Town Stadium 28 April 2015, with staff of the
City of Cape Town’s Environmental Health unit. The bottles contain the tangible consequences of smoking.

PLC in the Press

Health 24 (26 Sept 2014) Body Parts up for Adoption

Die Burger / Netwerk24 (17 Oct 2014) ‘n Mens in ‘n bottel and associated Youtube clip
Photo: Denvor De Wee for Die Burger

First example of Online Virtual Microscopy at UCT

Click on the microscope icon from this case of cryptococcal meningitis to see the pathology and the pathogens up close and personal.

Our specimens out and about

For World No Tobacco Week (26 -31 May 2014), City of Cape Town’s Environmental Health unit ran with the WHO theme “Protect Youth from Tobacco Marketing”. Interventions were held in schools, colleges and public spaces. Our specimens of smoking related diseases were “always the centre of attraction” and “drew out many a question from the audience”.

The Microscope Has Landed

The Pathology Learning Centre has just taken delivery of an Olympus VS120 virtual slide scanner. This will give the best possible digital microscopy images to add to our catalogues - coming soon.

Latest exhibition now online    Pathology goes Viral

Featuring pathology caused by viruses, as illustrated by specimens in the UCT teaching collection

Museum Encounters

We would like to hear any interesting or funny stories you have about experiences in the pathology museum e.g. Did you disastrously misidentify organs or pathology? Cutting comments from tutors or examiners?
Contributions to the curator for a future feature on our Blog. Thanks for participating!

QR coding gives quick and easy access to PLC specimen data

The shortest route to access data on any catalogued PLC specimen is via a (free) QR reader installed on your smartphone or tablet. You can then use your device’s camera to scan the QR code, and your browser will open the webpage for that specimen.(A webcam on a PC or laptop can do the same.)

Wallpapering Room 1.12

This room houses the skin, breast and bone specimens. The new wallpaper is an assembly of old illustrations of skin conditions (source unknown).

New student SSM exhibition Jan 2013

One of last year’s year 2 students put together a commendably comprehensive exhibition on the the Pathology of Breast Cancer. This is now on display in Barnard-Fuller and online at: www.digitalpathology.uct.ac.za/topics/breast_ca/

3D imaging of our specimens   May 2012

Using on-line pathology one usually gets to view the back and front of a specimen, and usually this is all that's needed to see the pathology clearly. For some specimens it is very helpful to turn the specimen around and view it from all angles, as if one were actually handling it. We can approximate this with 3D imaging. We are incorporating 3D imaging into our student cases and catalogues, see (3D lithopaedion )


Essay Topic “Primary Childhood Tuberculosis” in 3 - 5000 words. Due 3 October. Contact Prof Govender’s office for details (+27 21 406 6162). Start HERE for inspiration.

Lodox™ Imaging  Dec 2011

Stef Steiner of Lodox Systems S.A. (www.lodox.com) has kindly helped us with x-raying a selection of our bottled specimens. This is valuable for reviewing some of our early material collected before imaging was available, as well as more recent material where the x-rays are simply missing. (See also lithopaedion )

TLC for New Residents  November 2011

The Saint Surgical Pathology collection is joining the Pathology Learning Centre. The specimens are being assessed, cleaned and renovated before being integrated into the existing collection.

Pathology Learning Centre - Michaelis Collaboration   October 2011

A collaboration with Michaelis art students curated by Julia Clark »

Student exhibitions  September 2011

Three students in year 2 of the MBChB signed up to do PLC exhibitions for their special studies modules.
They chose very different topics: Disorders of Pregnancy, Diseases of Urbanisation,
Rare Tumours and Predisposing Conditions

These exhibitions will be on display sequentially, in the cabinets in Barnard Fuller.
For web versions go to Exhibitions »

Pathology Learning Centre transformed  July 2011

Prof Fritha Langerman and a small team of students from Michaelis improved our environment one hundred times over with their work on the walls. (Sarah, Casey and Noel applying the mural).

Revamping of Pathology Learning Centre

The pathology museum in the JS Marais building was renamed the Pathology Learning Centre and was revamped in the course of 2011. Phase 1 was a new lantern roof over the courtyard which increased the area available for display of the specimen collection. Network points and computers now give direct access to the electronic catalogues.

Revamping of Pathology Learning Centre

Installation of the new lantern roof.

Pathology Learning Centre mini-exhibition

The first Pathology Learning Centre mini-exhibition was "When things go wrong" on the theme of congenital abnormalities. The physical exhibition was placed in the student recreation area of the Barnard Fuller building, with the idea of it being available to students during coffee breaks. We hope these mini-exhibitions will showcase what the Pathology Learning Centre has to offer. The online version can be found in Exhibitions