The Diffusion of a Museum Exhibit: The Case of the Transparent Man

  • Elena Canadelli


The essay focuses on the phenomenon of health exhibitions that arose in the second half of the nineteenth century and exploded between 1910 and 1940, with a peak in the 1930s. Leading this trend was the experience of the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, established in Dresden in 1912. It was relevant for pedagogical practice and for the novelty of the installations, later exported to the rest of Europe and above all to the United States. The exhibit symbolizing the Dresden Museum was the Transparent Man, a translucent life-size statue-model, made in plastic materials by Franz Tschakert, and exhibited for the first time at the opening of the second International Hygiene Exhibition in Dresden in 1930. It was displayed in the new building of the Museum that was opened on the occasion. This attractive and interactive medium was built for exhibition and educational purposes and it was soon followed by the Transparent Woman. The Transparent Man became ambassador of German health education all round the world. The transfer and migration of this popular reproducible science display from one country to another with largely different political connotations, allows to trace the diffusion dynamics of a specific cultural trait regarding the human body and its management. After the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933 and during the 1930s, the Transparent Man spread in the U.S. through traveling exhibitions, science museums and world’s fairs. The Transparent Man survived the falling of the National-Socialist ideology and gradually became an historical artifact.


Health museums Transparent Man Human body Health education 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of PaduaPadovaItaly

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