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Art and the History of Medicine: Digital Collections

The Four Seasons

The Four Seasons

The Four Seasons are unique, 17th-century copperplate engravings from the Trent Collection that were digitally reconstructed from more than 200 photographs in order to reproduce the experience of lifting the multilayered flaps and volvelles to reveal various anatomical dissections. A metaphor for the stages of human life, the prints illustrate not only human anatomy but are replete with allusions to alchemy, astrology, astronomy, botany, geography, palmistry, physiology, uroscopy and zoology.

Virtual Exhibits

Animated Anatomies - Explores the visually stunning and technically complex genre of printed texts and illustrations known as anatomical flap books. These publications invite the viewer to participate in virtual autopsies, through the process of unfolding their movable leaves, simulating the act of human dissection. This exhibit traces the flap book genre beginning with early examples from the sixteenth century, to the colorful “golden age” of complex flaps of the nineteenth century, and finally to the common children’s pop-up anatomy books of today.

Anatomical Fugitive SheetsAnatomical fugitive sheets provide an early interactive model for looking inside the human body. These printed illustrations are single sheets, similar to broadsides, that depict the body using layers or flaps that can be lifted to reveal internal organs and other body parts, mimicking what one would find upon dissection. The History of Medicine Collections have a total of ten such anatomical fugitive sheets dating from the early-sixteenth to mid-seventeenth centuries. The digital collection allows users to interact with the fugitive sheets by virtually lifting their flaps.

Ad*Access - Presents images and database information for over 7,000 advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955. Ad*Access concentrates on five main subject areas: Radio, Television, Transportation, Beauty and Hygiene, and World War II, providing a coherent view of a number of major campaigns and companies through images preserved in one particular advertising collection available at Duke University.

Malignant Fever - This exhibit highlights the effects of epidemic diseases on society by examining one of the most famous outbreaks in U.S. history – the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia. Drawing chiefly on letters written by Dr. Benjamin Rush, an eighteenth-century physician and U.S. Founding Father, to his wife Julia Stockton Rush, the exhibit examines the timeline of the outbreak, early responses, stages and symptoms, and the “cure” for yellow fever that Rush developed. Finally, the exhibit looks at the anatomy of an epidemic, focusing on the social and psychological effects exemplified by Rush’s emotion-filled letters, as well as stories that emphasize the fear, panic, and mental anguish that accompany epidemic disease outbreaks even today.

Medicine and Madison Avenue - Over 600 advertising items and publications dating from 1850 to 1920, illustrating the rise of consumer culture and the birth of a professionalized advertising industry in the United States.