“The interior of our bodies is hidden to us. What happens beneath the skin is mysterious, fearful, amazing.” These are the opening sentences to Dream Anatomy, an incredible online exhibition of anatomical drawings from the US Library of Medicine. Medical diagrams and anatomical men, especially those that predate “modern science,” are some of my favorite images to view and contemplate. From grotesque medieval illuminations to the body-machine maps of the industrial revolution, these images reveal the myriad considerations that people juggle when documenting the anatomy we all share. More importantly, I feel like anatomical diagrams display the ways in which “hard” science is very relative. Although humans have been practicing science (and even dissections) for thousands of years, these diagrams serve as a visual reminder of the different assumptions and pre-occupations that affect our search for and depiction of reality.
Below, some of my favorites from the exhibition, online, and my personal collection:
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