This is one of a small group of highly detailed anatomical models that the Museum purchased from H B Selby & Co in 1919 and 1920. Some bear the logo of Japanese company Shimadzu, while others are unmarked but were probably made in Japan. They help document the rise of Japanese industry, the growth of Selby as a supplier of scientific goods to the Australian market, and the still thriving practice of making models of parts of the human body for educational use.
Students of anatomy and physiology, including those training to be doctors or nurses, need to understand the structure of body parts, how they work, and how they relate to other parts. Examining cadavers is useful for this purpose, and anatomy museums preserve real body parts for study, but inanimate models are more convenient. The earliest anatomical models were made from wax, but they were too fragile to handle. Papier-mache, first used for this purpose by medical student Louis Auzoux in France, proved to be more durable and suitable for mass production. These models can be handled and are marked with numbers that were explained in study guides; unfortunately, the Museum does not have any guides to its models. Today, plastics give models a more realistic look and feel.
Anatomical models were first imported to Australia in the late nineteenth century, mainly from France and Germany. When this trade ceased during the First World War, importers turned instead to Japan. It was an ally of Australia's as well as a rapidly industrialising nation that produced a diverse array of goods and had high educational goals for its own people. Shimadzu began making anatomical models and scientific apparatus in 1875, and there were probably other companies competing with it in both local and export markets. On the evidence of models in the Museum's collection, the quality of its models approached that achieved by Auzoux and other European makers.
HB Selby was a significant Australian supplier of scientific glassware and other materials for education and research throughout twentieth century. Its beginnings can be traced to two entrepreneurial families, the Silberbergs and de Beers. H B Silberberg was a Kalgoorlie miner who also dealt in minerals and miners' supplies. Carl de Beer was a university student who established a business selling glassware to fellow students. The businesses formed a partnership in 1903, and Silberberg bought out his partner a few months later. Both the family name and the company name were changed to Selby in 1917, a common practice at a time when Germany was the enemy and those with Germanic names, even native-born citizens like H B Silberberg, were shunned socially and in business dealings.
Debbie Rudder, Curator, 2014