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Warren Anatomical Museum (WAM)

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In accordance with the wishes of Dr. John Collins Warren, by whom the founding collection was given to the Harvard Medical School, the Warren Anatomical Museum undertakes to maintain these collections, to add to them when feasible, and to make them available and useful for the study of medicine, anthropology, and the history of science. The Museum seeks to continue in the tradition of promoting the collection for the purposes of medical education in all forms whenever possible, as well as expand its scope to provide public programming and educational resources to the larger community.


News

Body of Knowledge curators on History of Science panel
Body of Knowledge exhibition, Samantha Van Gerbig, photographer, Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments

Body of Knowledge exhibition, Samantha Van Gerbig, photographer, Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments

Four of the nine members of the Body of Knowledge curatorial team sat on an April 1st History of Science panel hosted by Harvard University’s Department of the History of Science and department chair Janet Browne (Armont Professor of the History of Science). David Jones (A. Bernard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine & Chair, Center for the History of Medicine advisory committee), Scott Podolsky (Director, Center for the History of Medicine), Sara Schechner, David P. Wheatland Curator, Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments) and Dominic Hall (Warren Anatomical Museum curator, Center for the History of Medicine) reflected on their experiences designing the exhibition and selecting the anatomical preparations and artifacts used to communicate its narrative.

After the panel discussion, Cara Kiernan Fallon, Lisa Haushofer and Paolo Savoia, three more of the exhibit’s curators, led the attendees on a guided tour of the exhibit. The exhibit’s full curatorial team can be found in the Body of Knowledge Gallery Guide.

Body of Knowledge will be on display until December 5, 2014. More information can be found on the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments’ website. 

 

Center objects featured in newly opened “Body of Knowledge” exhibit
Paolo Mascagni, Anatomia universa (1823-1832), Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

Paolo Mascagni, Anatomia universa (1823-1832), Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

Forty-five artifacts, anatomical preparations, rare books, manuscripts, and art works from the Center of the History of Medicine’s Warren Anatomical Museum, Harvard Medical Library and Boston Medical Library collections are now on display in a new exhibit at Harvard’s Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments.

The new exhibit, entitled Body of Knowledge: A History of Anatomy (in 3 parts), opened on March 6th and will run until December 5th. The exhibit’s narrative covers approximately 500 years of anatomical history and was the result of a special curatorial collaboration by the Center for the History of Medicine, Harvard University’s Department of the History of Science, the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Harvard Medical School’s Program in Medical Education, and Harvard Museums of Science and Culture. It was sponsored by the David P. Wheatland Charitable Trust, the Ackerman Program on Medicine & Culture, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Harvard Museums of Science and Culture.

The thirty objects from the Warren Anatomical Museum include wax injected teaching preparations by Oliver Wendell Holmes and Richard Hodges, osteological preparations made by Thomas Dwight, Jr., postmortem and dissection kits, and enlarged teaching models of the skull and foot by artist J. H. Emerton. The Center’s Harvard Medical Library and Boston Medical Library loaned a diverse wealth of rare anatomy books and manuscripts, ranging from Andreas Vesalius’s 1543 De humani corporis fabrica to Henry Gray’s 1858 eponymous Anatomy.

The exhibit was featured in a recent Wired.Com article and in the Harvard Crimson.

The Center for the History of Medicine will be launching a companion exhibit this spring at the Countway Library focused on the history of anatomical teaching at Harvard Medical School.

Phineas Gage Featured on Italian Public Television Program “Superquark”

Skull of Phineas Gage, Warren Anatomical Museum in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine [WAM 00949]

Skull of Phineas Gage, Warren Anatomical Museum in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine [WAM 00949]

 

The skull, life cast, and tamping iron of Phineas Gage was featured on the Italian television program Superquark in its recent special on the brain. Superquark visited the Warren Anatomical Museum in October 2013.

Also featured in the program is Harvard Medical School Professor of Neurobiology Margaret Livingstone, who commented on the location and extent of Gage’s brain injury.

Video of the episode is located on the Superquark website. Gage’s skull and the interview with Dr. Livingstone begins at the 00:38:06 mark.

Warren Museum Conserves New Accessions for “Body of Knowledge” exhibit
Thomas Dwight lecturing in amphitheater, with Dwight-Emerton skull models, c. 1906., Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

Thomas Dwight, Jr. lecturing using Dwight-Emerton skull models, 1906, Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

In November 2013 Harvard Medical School’s Program in Medical Education generously donated a series of large papier-mâché models designed by Harvard anatomist Thomas Dwight, Jr. and sculptor J. H. Emerton to the Warren Anatomical Museum. Between 1890 and 1895, Emerton made 20 models for Dwight, many of which have survived and are still used in Harvard’s anatomy classrooms. The donation included a 6.5-foot-tall model of a sagittal section of the human skull, a 5-foot-long model of the bones of the foot, various enlarged hand bones and vertebrae – all by Emerton. Also, included in the gift were two papier-mâché Auzoux models, an enlarged ear and a sagittal section of the face with removable layers.

The skull and bones of the foot models are being loaned for the approaching exhibition Body of Knowledge; A History of Anatomy (In Three Parts). The exhibit is a special collaboration of the Center for the History of Medicine, the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Harvard University’s Department of the History of Science, the Harvard Medical School Program in Medical Education, and the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture. The exhibit will open at the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments on March 6, 2014 and run until December 5, 2014. Approximately 50 anatomical preparations, models, artifacts, books and images  from Center for the History of Medicine collections will be displayed.

Object conservator Nina Vinogradskaya working on Dwight-Emerton skull, Warren Anatomical Museum in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

Object conservator Nina Vinogradskaya working on the Dwight-Emerton skull, Warren Anatomical Museum in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

After 100 years of active teaching, the skull and foot models acquired their fair share of chips, breaks, and abrasions. The Center and the Ackerman Program on Medicine and Culture funded the conservation and partial restoration of the skull and foot. Skilled object conservator Nina Vinogradskaya carefully cleaned the models, consolidated their deteriorating paint layers, repaired breaks in the papier-mâché and plaster, and even restored large sections of loss in the skull’s maxilla and teeth. The models and Nina’s work will be prominently displayed in Body of Knowledge and at the Warren Museum and Countway Library when they return to the Harvard Medical School campus in December 2014.

Harvard Medical School’s Stephanie Dutchen authored an article on the acquisition of the Dwight-Emerton models and their move across the Medical School campus in the school’s news feed.

New artifacts donated to Warren Museum

Pocket field surgery kit, used in the American Civil War and found on a battlefield in 1862, Warren Anatomical Museum [WAM 21049], Francis A Countway Library of Medicine

Pocket field surgery kit, used in the American Civil War and found on a battlefield in 1862. Warren Anatomical Museum [WAM 21049], Francis A Countway Library of Medicine

The Warren Museum recently acquired two new artifacts.

R. Bryan and Drew Trainor donated a pocket surgery kit to the Museum that had been passed down through their family. The kit was found on an American Civil War battlefield in 1862 by Julius Reed of 1st Regiment of the Heavy Artillery of Connecticut. Reed gave the kit to the donor’s great-great-grandfather.

The surviving instruments in the kit are mostly made by George Tiemann & Co. and were designed for minor surgery. They include an artery forceps, a  tortoise-shell folding probe, a tortoise-shell folding curved bistoury and tenotome, a tortoise-shell folding gum lancet and tenaculum, a tortoise-shell folding curved bistoury and scalpel and a suture needle. The kit also contained a bullet from a Vanderberg Volley Gun.

Harvard Medical School Associate Professor of Medicine Peter Tishler donated a box of Eli Lilly Liver Extract #343, circa 1929, to the Museum’s collection, marking an important moment in the history of hematology as well as the history of university and industry partnerships. In 1926 Harvard physicians George Minot and William Murphy announced that feeding liver to pernicious anemia patients helped restore their health. By 1928 Minot and Murphy had collaborated with Eli Lilly to create and market Liver Extract#343 to treat the disease. Minot and Murphy, along with University of Rochester’s George Whipple, won the 1934 Noble Prize for their pernicious anemia research.

Eli Lilly box containing Liver Extract #343, dated 1929. Warren Anatomical Museum [WAM 21053], Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

Eli Lilly box containing Liver Extract #343, dated 1929. Warren Anatomical Museum [WAM 21053], Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

Patients were instructed to take “3 to 6 vials” of Liver Extract #343 a day, depending on the recommendations of their physicians. Each box contained 24 vials of the compound. The donated box most likely came from a former pernicious anemia patient. Of the 16 surviving vials, 15 have been emptied of their contents.

The Warren Museum is grateful to our generous donors whose gifts will benefit of future physicians, historians of science, and the curious public.

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