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Boerhaave Museum and LUMC discover skeleton in manikin

Leiden's Boerhaave Museum and Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) have discovered parts of a skeleton in an 18th-century manikin. The manikin was once used as a teaching aid for midwives. As far as we know, this is the only one of its kind in the world.

Real bones for teaching medicine

In the 18th century it was not unusual to use real bones in medical teaching to make the lessons as realistic as possible. The model in the Boerhaave Museum is unique because both the female torso and the baby model contain original bone material. As far as we know, there is no other baby model in the world as complete as this specimen.

Examination

The discovery came to light when the obstetric manikin was being examined with a view to being restored. Curator Mieneke te Hennepe noticed that what was expected to be a wooden pelvis looked remarkably like bone tissue. Further examination was called for.

Skeleton in female torso and baby manikin

The obstetric manikin was donated to the Boerhaave Museum in 1970 by the then Leiden Academic Hospital, currently LUMC. This same LUMC was involved in recent weeks in further medical-historical research led by radiologist Monique Reijnierse. On examination, it appeared that the female torso contained actual bone in the pelvis and the final vertebra, while the rest of the spinal column is constructed very precisely of wood. To the enormous surprise of both curator and radiologist, not only did the female torso contain skeletal elements, an almost complete baby skeleton was worked into the chamois leather baby model.  

Made by Gottlieb Salomon?

Further research is currently being done on the skeletal tissue, and the textile and nails used in the manikin. The researchers hope to learn more about the manikin's age and its provenance. Literature studies point in the direction of Leiden physician Gottlieb Salomon (1774 - 1865) as the possible maker of the model. In particular, an article from 1803 reports that Salomon had made a very precise obstetric model in 1798. The similarities between this model and the specimen found by the Boerhaave Museum and LUMC are remarkable. 

Re-opening of Boerhaave

The Boerhaave Museum will re-open its doors in November 2017. A special place has been reserved for the manikin in the new layout of the Museum. 

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