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2001/55/1 Anatomical model, 'obstetric phantom', comprising female abdomen with foetus, leather / horse hair / textile, maker not recorded, England, c. 1900. Click to enlarge.

Anatomical model of a female abdomen and foetus

Made
Models like this one are called 'obstetric phantoms' in medical instrument catalogues and they are used to teach medical and nursing students the mechanisms of labour. Unlike rigid plaster or plastic anatomical models, phantoms have some of the tactility, flexibility and resistance of a real human body.

Because the model of the 'mother' is cut away on the belly side, the teacher can manipulate the model of the 'foetus' so that it emerges and rotates the way a real baby would as it is being born. The teacher is also able to demonstrate births that are not normal, such as when the baby presents with its feet or shoulder first, instead of its head. This means that the student doctor or midwife can practice delivering babies in normal conditions, and in circumstances where obstetric forceps are needed. Obstetricians themselves sometimes use a phantom to rehearse manoeuvres before presiding at a difficult delivery.

Some demonstration obstetric models consist of real female pelvic bones mounted on a stand with the real skull of a foetus. Some mid-20th century 'phantoms' resemble nothing so much as a vitreous china basin with a rubber 'vulva' for the baby (with its wooden head and chamois body) to pass through. But the leather 'phantom' owned by the Powerhouse Museum is a particularly interesting example, its detail including a red leather interior with the mother's backbone in relief, stitching around the vulva that appears to represent labia, and facial and cranial features on the foetus. It is in good condition but the tip of the baby's nose is very worn, apparently as a result of repeated 'births'. The model was purchased at auction in London in 2001 and is estimated to date from the late 1800s.

Acknowledgments
Members of the Health and Medicine Museums Special Interest Group of Museums Australia assisted curator, Megan Hicks, by providing information about obstetric phantoms and their usage. Special thanks are due to Dr Stephen Steigrad, Mrs Judith Cornell AM, and Mrs Helen Croll-Wilson.

References
Catalogue of surgical instruments and appliances manufactured by Arnold & Sons, London, 1895.

A reference list of surgical instruments and medical appliances, Allen & Hanburys Ltd, London, 1930.

Illustrated catalogue: Surgical instruments and appliances, Elliots and Australian Drug Limited, Sydney, 1934.

Parts of this object

Summary

Object No.

2001/55/1

Object Statement

Anatomical model, 'obstetric phantom', comprising female abdomen with foetus, leather / horse hair / textile, maker not recorded, England, c. 1900

Physical Description

Anatomical model of a female abdomen with the anterior side cut away and showing a foetus. The model is made of leather, which has a cream coloured exterior and a red interior. The 'baby' is made of the same pale-coloured leather, with a red mouth and red umbilical cord.

Dimensions

Height

220 mm

Width

470 mm

Production

Notes

It has been speculated by the curator that this object was probably made in the United Kingdom

The specialist at Christie's South Kensington, where the model was purchased, reported that no provenance was known but he estimated that it dated from the late 19th or early 20th century.

History

Notes

The specialist at Christie's South Kensington, where the model was purchased, reported that no provenance was known but he estimated that it dated from the late 19th or early 20th century.

This model would have been used for midwifery demonstrations of the mechanisms of labour, giving medical and nursing students the opportunity to practice assisting at birth.

Source

Credit Line

Purchased 2001

Acquisition Date

18 July 2001

Cite this Object

Harvard

Anatomical model of a female abdomen and foetus 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 30 September 2020, <https://ma.as/10237>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/10237 |title=Anatomical model of a female abdomen and foetus |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=30 September 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Incomplete

This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.