Models made for science at Macleay Museum

Hairy marine larvae, rabbit brains, a dissected horse’s head, the insides of a sheep – these are just some of the weird and wonderful objects now on display at our very own Macleay Museum.

‘True to Form’ brings together the best of the University’s scientific teaching models from the 1880s onwards. Though most have been consigned to history, these incredibly detailed replicas provide a fascinating insight into the teaching of science before more modern technology was introduced.

Maybe it’s because I’m an Arts student who dropped high school science long before they started on the interesting things like prodding rat’s kidneys and dissecting eyeballs, but some of the models seem positively outlandish. There’s a strange sci-fi feel to the whole show, what with the giant grain of wheat that looks like a GM experiment gone horribly wrong and the great array of model embryos, lined up like bizarre alien life forms in their various stages of development.

At the same time, some of the models are strikingly beautiful. The collection of protozoa resembles exquisitely crafted seashells, while the geometric shapes of both the crystal and geological formation models could pass as contemporary abstract sculptures.

By far the most intriguing model in the show is William, a human figure (minus his skin), the size of a ten year old boy. Handmade in France’s Auzoux model-making factory in 1861, the anatomical detail is astounding – moulded from papier-mâché and plaster, tiny labels cover his delicately painted exterior, which can be opened out to display his insides.

While ‘True to Form’ would undoubtedly fascinate any budding doctor, biologist or zoologist, this is the kind of exhibition that is compelling no matter your background. So next time you have a break between classes, or an exceptionally boring one looming, why not drop into the Macleay for a dose of science the old-fashioned way?

‘True to Form’ runs until August 9. Macleay Museum is located on campus at Gosper Lane.

Honi Soit
Honi Soit is the largest and oldest weekly student newspaper in Australia. Our articles, like this one, are made possible by our dedicated student reporters and contributors.
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