Celebrating Juno, the Transparent Woman

juno-2 Welcome back to the Dittrick Museum Blog!

This month, the Wellcome Collection’s Object of the Month is celebrating a mainstay of health museums world-wide: the transparent anatomical model. In the write up, which explores the marred past of these devices in the war and post-war period–“a past that very few know about, a past that tells a story of redemption and new beginnings.”[1]

Juno rescued from her crate!

In the 1920s, the Deutsches-Hygiene-Museum in Dresden, Germany, created a fully operable model of the human body, depicting “the human body as a machine.” [2] A transparent female form was made to join him. Despite becoming part of East Germany after WWII, the museum continued to make these models into the late eighties. Some of the employees, however, did leave East Germany for the West, helping to create the Köln Krankenhaus Museum [1]. It was here that Dittrick’s own transparent woman–Juno–was “born”; Franz Tschaikart of Cologne, Germany, crafted her on commission from the original German Hygiene Museum.

Her original destination was the Cleveland Health Education Museum (CHEM), which opened in 1940 under the direction of Bruno Gebhardt (formerly of the German Hygiene Museum, 1927-35) and featured state-of-the-art health exhibitry, including Juno. In 1950, a friend of the Health Museum paid $15,000 to bring Juno to Cleveland. “She” first appeared in public on November 13, 1950, and a contest was held to name her. (‘Juno’, is named after the Roman goddess of women). In 2011, Juno moved to her present home in the Dittrick’s museum collection after being long entombed in her original packing crate. As the first transparent woman made in West Germany after the war, she has been–and remains–a kind of ambassador.

Jim Edmonson, curator, inspecting Juno

In all, the CHEM housed three Juno-like figures. Over the years they became a Cleveland icon, greeting generations of school kids on field trips to the museum. Sadly, CHEM (later known as HealthSpace Cleveland) closed in 2006 and a vestige of its exhibits and staff came over to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in 2007. There they now now offer programming and exhibits to help understand the physiology and frailty of the human body, the sources of disease and the grounding of wellness. Another Juno welcomes museum visitors there.

A warm welcome!

Our Juno greets visitors as they enter, standing elegantly as a testament to transparent pedagogy. Interested in Juno and her male counterparts? Take a look at the Wellcome’s Object of the Month. You might also enjoy Klaus Vogel’s article: “The Transparent Man – Some comments on the history of a symbol,” in Robert Bud, et al, Manifesting Medicine: Bodies and Machines [Artefacts, Studies in the History of Science and Technology , Vol 1], Amsterdam, the Netherlands : Harwood Academic, 1999.

[1] http://blog.wellcomecollection.org/2013/12/03/object-of-the-month-the-transparent-woman/–accessed 11 December 2013

[2] www.dhmd.de/fileadmin/user_upload/uploads_drei/pressematerial/Permanent_Exhibition.pdf – accessed 30 August 2013.

Published by

Brandy Schillace

Historian and author Brandy Schillace, PhD, is Editor for Medhum Fiction | Daily Dose, Research Associate and Public Engagement at the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum, as well as Managing Editor of the medical anthropology journal Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry.

3 thoughts on “Celebrating Juno, the Transparent Woman”

  1. I was on a field trip in 1950 to Cleveland from Chardon Ohio when the glass lady was there. In 1955 I joined army and wrote the museum while I was stationed in Bamberg Germany. I received a letter back from the museum, and was quite happy for the letter. Thanks from a GI. You made my day. age 79 now.

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