Sunday, August 30, 2020

Mayo Clinic: History of Wax Models

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

The Winter 2029-2020 issue of Minnesota History is up to its usual standard. I point out one article by Karen Koka, Mayo Clinic's Moulages and Medical Museum.

"For six decades," Koka begins, "from 1924 to 1982, Rochcester's Mayo Clinic produced large numbers of medical moulages, lifelike wax models formed from molds to demonstrate pathological changes in the human body. The wax models were educational tools used in exhibits at major medical meetings to depict the Mayo Clinic's medical and surgical techniques and to illustrate the signs, symptoms, and treatments of conditions seen at the clinic."

In Koka's close she notes that "As of 2019, 31 years after the museum closed, almost all of an estimated 1500-1800 extant wax models remain in storage. Only seven are now exhibited in the Mayo Clinic's patient education library in the Stephens Building, and a few others are on display in departmental areas."  

Interestingly, the moulages are still "asked patients who remember child hood field trips to the Mayo Museum and recall the fascination inspired by their lifelike features." Many were of farm injuries and accidents. I hope that one-day they will have an exhibit home so that we can see and learn from all of them.

The full article is available on-line (well-illustrated so do yourself a favor and at least scroll it). Moulage as a technique is still being used even in this era of 3-D imaging techniues. This video ( 2m 19s) from the Mayo Clinic describes the process and some uses.

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