Medicine and natural history at The Huntington

RAMBLE: How the Natural History & Medicine Room of The Huntington Spoke to My Soul

RAMBLE: How the Natural History & Medicine Room of The Huntington Spoke to My Soul

Does the title of this post seem dramatic? Maybe a little, but if you know me you’ll understand why this exhibit was somewhere I could have stayed for awhile. If you don’t, let me tell you a bit about myself.

Quick Background About Me

Since I was a kid, science and art were my favorite subjects in school. Classes that don’t require writing long academic papers – yes please! I was fascinated the anatomical structures I studied were in myself and everyone around me! In school I was learning how the human body worked and how it compared and contrasted to other animals. I really geek out about this stuff.

I attended the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Biomedical Visualization graduate program to study medical and scientific illustration. This was the ideal way for me to combine both my passions. In the program, that’s celebrating its centennial this year(!!), I was taught how to take complex medical and scientific concepts and translate them into easily understood visuals. You might think… so? How is there a whole 2-year program dedicated to this? Well next time you are in the doctor’s office and want to better understand some verbal explanation a physician provided about your ailment, you’ll pick up an informative and easy to understand pamphlet that was created by a medical illustrator. You can thank a medical illustrator for clearly visualizing new medical procedures for medical staff training that helps provide YOU proper cutting edge care. I’ll stop here because I could ramble for a lonnnng time about the program and profession. If you want to hear more, reach out in the comments!

Oh, and one last thing! Leonardo Da Vinci is considered the father of medical illustration and is always my answer to the common ice breaker, “Who would you like to meet dead or alive?”.

The Huntington – Dibner Hall of the History of Science

Now, imagine already having a great time and suddenly walking into a room you didn’t know existed full of your favorite things. That’s what happened when I was exploring The Huntington’s 207 acres and happened upon Dibner Hall. This hall you NEED to check out if you are into art and science. They have four exhibits here – astronomy, natural history, medicine, and light. The natural history and medicine exhibits made me giddy. Be warned the exhibit walls are red. This is not a recipe for great selfies.

These exhibits were inspiring to say the least! When you first walk into the natural history section you see a whole wall filled with scientific plant and animal drawings. Not only are all these illustrations works of art, they also teach us so much about our world today and from centuries ago. It reminded me of how much I want to create my own nature journal. You notice so much when you stop and start to really see things around you.

The Medicine exhibit is in the same hall as the Natural History. At first you might be put off by human anatomy being displayed in a seemingly macabre way, but remember these illustrations were meant for education. Sometimes the bodies seem posed in more theatrical ways than scientific, but these were scientific illustrators having fun with their craft. Without curious minds and artistic talent we would not have the advanced medicine we have today. It was awesome seeing scientific illustrations by artists I studied in the biomedical visualization program, like Andreas Vesalius.

Let me know in the comments below if you find natural history and medicine as fascinating as I do! We can geek out together.

Small Announcement

I will be launching a podcast later this month! This first episode will be about all things Halloween. Check out “Laura’s Rambles” on Spotify, Friday, October 22nd.

Keep curious,


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Natural History and Medicine Exhibits at The Huntington
Natural History and Medicine Exhibits at The Huntington

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