Anatomy illustrated: Scientific images and the body at the Wangensteen Historical Library

By Anna Opryszko

“Anatomy Illustrated: Scientific Images and the Body,” a new exhibit, showcases some of the most important examples among the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine’s vast collection of historical anatomical illustrations.

The illustrations are reproduced at three to four times their original size, highlighting important details about the ways they were made, used, and understood when they were produced in the 1500s through the 1700s. 

What: Anatomy illustrated: Scientific images and the body at the Wangensteen Historical Library
When: March 2022 – September 2022
Where: Wangensteen Historical Library, 2-340 Phillips-Wangensteen Building (PWB) second floor concourse
Hours: Monday-Friday 8:30am-4:30pm, free and open to the public; masks required, as WHL is located within the Health Sciences complex of the U of M campus.

Flap anatomies

Three of the collection’s flap anatomies were reproduced so that viewers can interact with them. Flap anatomies were used to supplement anatomical learning, showing multiple layers of internal structures through moveable illustrations. While many of the flap anatomies in the Wangensteen’s collection are too fragile to handle, these reproductions welcome users to flip the flaps as much as they please.

They include a printed 16th-century European female anatomy; an 18th-century Japanese manuscript showing the stages of pregnancy; and, an early 20th-century anatomical model of a pig.

Collaboration with Darren Terpstra, the exhibit lead for Archives and Special Collections, was key to creating these touch-and-see reproductions. Each layer of the flap anatomies had to be individually photographed, printed, and backed with book cloth to ensure that they would withstand as much use as possible.

Exhibit details

The content of this exhibit was inspired by the research and an online exhibit that the Wangensteen did with former U of M professor Francesca Bortoletti on the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s birth. 

You can find full citations and catalog links to the volumes used in the exhibit by looking at the exhibit bibliography



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