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H3277 Anatomical model of a human kidney, liver and spleen, papier-mache / plaster / paint, maker unknown, place of manufacture unknown, 1920. Click to enlarge.

Anatomical model of a human kidney, liver and spleen

  • 1920
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


Object No.


Object Statement

Anatomical model of a human kidney, liver and spleen, papier-mache / plaster / paint, maker unknown, place of manufacture unknown, 1920

Physical Description

Anatomical model of the left and right kidney, liver and spleen, made of plaster and papier-mache. The model is painted brown to indicate the kidneys, mottled red, purple and white for the spleen and bright red with white lines for the liver. Connecting these organs together are red and blue blood vessels and the aorta.


Black printed text and numbers on small circular pieces of paper cover the model. There are also numbers in black and white ink painted directly onto the model on the side showing the exterior of the liver.



140 mm


240 mm



  • 1920


The model could have been made by Shimadzu or another Japanese maker, as the importer, H B Selby, turned from Germany to Japan as a source of supply during the First World War. It has no markings that indicate the maker's name. Papier mache anatomical models were made from the early 19th century. A French physician, Dr Louis Thomas Jerome Auzoux, started making them to help him learn anatomy as a student. Papier mache was much more robust than earlier wax models that were too fragile to be handled. Auzoux's models became so popular that he opened a factory in 1822, the same year that he received his medical degree. His anatomical, veterinary and botanical models became sought after by schools, universities, medical schools and museums all over the world. Other companies began making similar models in response to this demand.



This model was purchased by the Museum from H B Selby & Co, 254a George Street, Sydney in 1920. The history of the company is in the book 'Selbys the science people, a history of H B Selby Australia Limited' (2005) by Samuel Furphy. Selby was a scientific supply company that operated in Australia from 1903. The business was originally called H B Silberberg & Co. During the First World War, this German name was treated with hostility, so it was changed to H B Selby in 1917. Because the company sourced many goods from Europe, the war disrupted its business. Supplies were cut off, so the company had to find alternative suppliers in other countries.


Credit Line

Purchased 1920

Acquisition Date

8 September 1920

Cite this Object


Anatomical model of a human kidney, liver and spleen 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 5 March 2021, <https://ma.as/236645>


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