Friday, December 07, 2007

New donation: anatomical paper dolls

Yesterday, the OHSU Heart Research Center sent over two anatomical paper dolls which had been safely ensconced in a filing cabinet over there since they were given to the HRC by Board member Jane Zahler about four years ago.

The dolls (male and female) consist of multiple layers of paper, hinged so as to allow progressive uncovering of the human anatomy, a la ecorche (pardon the lack of accents). The color illustrations cover front and back of each layer, providing an almost 3D experience of the human body.

Searching for information about these items, I came across the Artificial Anatomy web site from the National Museum of American History. The History section on Learning Anatomy in the 20th Century includes images of an exact match to our female doll. They date the item to the 1920s, and I'll take their word for it. While we don't know who owned these dolls between the time they were purchased in the 1920s and the time Zahler picked them up at an estate sale, it's clear that they have been cared for over the years and their condition is quite good.

These two dolls now keep company with two other anatomic model specimens in the History of Medicine Collection: the "pocket phantoms" from Shibata's work on obstetrics and the portfolio of hinged models in Physician's anatomical aid, another work from the 1920s. These interactive 2D models were more limited than their 3D cousins in their ability to demonstrate human anatomy, but were undoubtedly much more portable and probably much cheaper to purchase.

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