Warren Museum Conserves New Accessions for “Body of Knowledge” exhibit

By , January 30, 2014
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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.

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