Jerome exposed: Treatment of a 19th century anatomical model

Beth Richwine


In the spring of 2000, The National Museum of American History (NMAH) opened a small exhibit of Anatomical Models called “Artificial Anatomy: Papier-Mâché Anatomical Models”. The majority of the models were made by Dr. Lois Thomas Jerome Auzouz. The papier-mâché models, which he made in his factory beginning in 1822, are beautifully constructed in exquisite detail with even the smallest muscle fibers hand painted in accurate colors. The models come apart to reveal deeper layers and details inside the organs. The deconstruction and reconstruction of the models is facilitated by an elaborate system of pins and latches.

Included in this exhibit was a full sized male figure made of papier-mâché by Dr. Auzouz’s Company in approximately 1895 and nicknamed ”Jerome” by NMAH staff after his maker. Although the model was generally in good condition, it suffered from flaking of its surfaces in select areas and the chest cover no longer fit properly because of warping. In addition, the surfaces were very dirty and an original a gelatin- like coating made cleaning difficult.

For an exhibit of less than six months duration, such as Artificial Anatomy, complex and lengthy conservation treatments are not normally performed. However, in addition to ”Jerome”, many of the other papier-mâché models had similar flaking surface problems and needed treatment just to stabilize them. Given limited staff resources and the exhibit deadline, a compromise was reached on the amount of treatment work that would be performed on each model, with stabilization of the flaking layers the primary goal. With ”Jerome” as the featured model of the exhibit and the largest, much of the treatment hours available for this showcase were devoted to Jerome.

This paper focuses on the work performed on Jerome, which was limited to stabilization of the surfaces. Full cleaning and compensation were secondary goals.

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2001 | Dallas | Volume 8