The transparent man
Images of the human being in the modern sciences
Since its creation in 1911, the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum has striven to prevent disease by enlightening the public. The more the human body has yielded its secrets to science, the more vulnerable it has appeared to be. Yet medical progress has also fostered optimism that disease can be vanquished if people contribute by taking responsibility and by acquiring knowledge about their own bodies. The museum has always portrayed the body in a gamut of contexts, ranging from the individual threatened by illnesses to a frequently idealized, if not prescribed, notion of health. Since 1930, the "Transparent Man" has served as the symbol of this museum. This figure depicts the internal workings of the human body as a machine: understandable, immaculate, and, if well cared for, durable. The meaning of terms such as disease and health is in constant flux, however, and the museum will continue the effort to help define them
Living and Dying
From the first cell to a person's death
How does a cell form, and how does it grow into a whole organism? What does it mean to be healthy or ill? Why do living things age? When is a person dead? How do different cultures deal with the start and end of human existence?
Since February 2017, this themed room has awaited visitors with updated content and a new design.
The first section, Life Begins, is about the biological processes which set in after the ovum and the sperm cell fuse. At the same time, it shows how the images of the embryo popularised in the media have greatly influenced the discussion on when human life begins.
The section Building Blocks of Life focuses on the ethical questions arising as a result of advances in cell research. What kinds of artificial insemination and prenatal diagnosis are there today? What does it mean that we may in future be able to grow functioning organs out of individual cells?
Living with Illness – despite all the medical advances of recent decades, illness is still a part of life. What illnesses can modern medicine recognise and heal? Can sick people still lead a good life? And where does our own responsibility come in?
Improved living conditions have markedly improved life expectancy in our society. The Living Longer section shows that our ideas of age and our assessment of whether we feel “old” or not have changed radically. For most people today, after all, getting older offers them the chance to shape their own lives individually for longer than has ever been possible in the past.
The dream of never having to die is as old as humanity itself – but we live in the knowledge that death comes at the end of every life. The last section, The End of Life, is about saying goodbye; about dying in dignity being part of life, and about remembering the dead. It points out that thinking about dying and death must always also be understood as remembering a life lived.
Eating and Drinking
Diet as a bodily function and cultural act
When did table manners develop, and what are they like in other cultures? What aromas suit each other? What causes the poor state of global food distribution, and what role does consumers’ behaviour play? Is eating a cult? What path does food take through the body?
In autumn 2014, the “Eating and Drinking” section of the exhibition replaced the themed room on nutrition which had been set up ten years earlier. It features an updated concept, modern scenography and extensive new content. As well as popular classics from the old exhibition, such as the neon “Goldbroiler” sign from Dresden’s Schillerplatz or “Heidi” the transparent cow, visitors can now explore plenty of new attractions. There is an interactive supermarket with all kinds of background information, an aroma memory game to train your sense of smell and taste, a table set with tableware and cutlery from ancient times to the present, and much more.
This section’s reconception places new emphasis on the different aspects related to the subject of nutrition. As well as the biological necessity of supplying the organism with energy in the form of food, keeping it healthy, the exhibition now also more clearly focuses on the pleasure and civilisational act involved in preparing and consuming meals.
It thus also reacts to the fact that there have been some changes in the field of nutrition over the last ten years. Ambitious restaurants and shockingly expensive kitchen design companies are now equally capable of attracting customers, while German kitchens and dining rooms bear witness to entire libraries of cookbooks, professional equipment and an unbelievable love of experimentation. In other words, eating and drinking have become part of our individual lifestyle in almost every generation and social class.
Love, sex, and lifestyles in the age of reproductive medicine
Sexuality shapes human behaviour and physical appearance. Knowledge from the biological sciences makes human sexuality understandable as the result of genetic factors and metabolic processes in the brain. The provocative relationship between pleasure and love, taboo and liberality, and self-development and responsibility is constantly being redefined in social and cultural processes.
Distinctions between the sexes are the result of continuous evolutionary processes, as are the strategies of selecting a mate. Human behaviour, however, is also subject to pronounced cultural and social differentiation. To evolutionary biologists, mate selection primarily serves to ensure successful reproduction. Physical appearance, body language, chemical attractants, and the voice of the other person indisputably influence one's mate selection often unconsciously.
Hormones, Gender, and Arousal: Physiological Bases of Sexual Behaviour
Pleasure originates chiefly in the mind. The brain controls the complex processes in the body. In conjunction with the nervous system, the hormonal system is the primary reason for butterflies in the stomach and passionate desire. The sex hormones have effects ranging from influence on gender differentiation to the control of sexual arousal. However, human sexuality cannot be explained in terms of hormonal effect alone.
With sexual activity starting at an ever earlier age, sex education has been an important topic, and not just for children and adolescents. Contraception has existed for thousands of years, but the invention of the birth control pill revolutionized sexual behavior by disassociating it from the function of reproduction. The outbreak of AIDS compelled all strata of the population to talk about sexuality even more openly than had been the case after the sexual revolution.
Love, Partnership, and Family
The family as we know it today emerged in the nineteenth century. Since that time, families have come to center more on love and emotional support than on maintenance of a household. The family has many forms today, ranging from the married couple with two children to single-parent families and same-sex cohabitation with children. Declining birth rates and the new possibilities available through reproductive medicine highlight the conflict surrounding the status of children in modern societies. The first constant of the family as an institution is its continual change; the second is its unrivaled merits as a domestic living arrangement.
Sexuality in Public and Private Space
Sexuality occurs in the polarity between intimacy and the public sphere. Advertisements, media, and public discourse make it a part of everyday life. This treatment of the sexual lends a bit of normality to less common practices, too. At the same time, it sets new norms occasionally felt to be burdensome. Yet sexual desires and preferences are only partly influenced by the public. They lead their own existence in each person.
The cosmos of the human brain
The human brain is probably the most complicated structure in the universe. Every single one of its 100 billion cells forms links with 10,000 others. This gigantic network processes sensory impressions, experiences, and feelings. Brain research is one of the most successful scientific ventures of present times. Many fundamental mechanisms are known, and research progress is leading to new medical therapies and learning methods. No one knows yet whether all the functions and structures of the human brain can ever be fully explained.
Sensory Organs and Perception
The sensory organs provide for communication with the external world. The kind of information that is registered depends, first of all, on the structure and function of the organs involved. Perceptions arise only from those sense stimuli that the brain translates into its language. It creates its own perceptual world by bringing out the most probable and meaningful configuration of available information. Perception is thus already a form of experience. It has to be learned.
The Structure and Function of the Brain
All functions of the human brain have evolved in the course of the human beings interaction with a changing environment. They are based on chemical and electrophysical processes in different, clearly demarcated areas of the brain. Study of the brain structures and functions has always included the hope that the human spirit our experiencing, processing, linking, transforming, and remembering will one day be able to apprehend itself.
Feelings and the Logical Mind
Emotions are a faculty for evaluating thought and behavior. They are like concentrated experiences, without which sensible action would be impossible. With each recollection, an emotional context of relations and associations is created that helps anchor new experiences and knowledge in the memory. Essentially, recollections and the attendant emotional responses constitute our conscious mind and individual personality.
The art of coordination
Many movements take place involuntarily. Some of them, such as the heartbeat and intestinal peristalsis, are concealed within the body. Others, such as blinking and the respiratory motion of the chest, are externally visible. The voluntary motion of muscles and the skeleton primarily serves the purpose of locomotion and everyday tasks. Movement is conducive to health and can be analyzed and optimized. Movement influences our perception of space. In the form of gestures and facial expressions, it is part of personality and of communication with other people.
Movements convey many layers of information, often without a person being aware of it. When we blush or drum our fingers on a table, the body is speaking its own, only partly controllable language. It can betray us by contradicting what we say in words. But it can also make our words more persuasive. Body language is often used selectively. Pantomimists and actors often have such mastery of it that they can tell entire stories with it. The character of individuals as well as of cultures is reflected in body language.
How Motion Functions
The first thing that the motility of the body requires is a locomotor system with bones, joints, tendons, and muscles. Respiration and a circulatory system supply it with oxygen and nutrients and guarantee the availability of the necessary energy. The brain and the nervous system control the sequences of movements. Coordinated motion in space is ensured primarily by the information received from the organ of equilibrium, the proprioceptors, and the eyes. We do not normally become aware of these somatic actions until pain or constraints on our freedom of movement occur.
How Motion Has Its Effect
Motion affects the entire person, both the body and the mind. It promotes health, and it is fun. Athletics facilitates the development of social competence and fosters a sense of community. Motion can help avoid or treat disease and symptoms of attrition. If the body becomes excessively or too unevenly stressed, then motion becomes too much of a good thing. Synchronizing sequences of movement enhances aesthetic pleasure, as in ballet, or builds discipline, as in the military. Forms of motion also always mirror social conditions.
Optimization and Acceleration
As human beings evolved, their locomotor system adapted to changed habitats. Movements have always been practiced and taught, and in the modern age many of them have been synchronized and accelerated. During the twentieth century in particular, researchers developed analyses of the human locomotor system in order to optimize it and integrate it into mechanical processes. Their work today, however, also focuses on forms of motion that have gotten out of control, the behavior of large panic-stricken crowds, for example. Increasing social mobility by technological means has impacts on the human organism.
beauty, skin and hair
Open boundaries between the body and the environment
Many cultures and eras have devoted a great deal of medical and cosmetic attention to skin and hair. As boundaries between what is "internal" and what is "external", these two parts of the body have always been one of the most important focal points of beauty care and personal grooming. Beautiful skin and beautiful hair reflect youth, health, and prosperity.
The Schwarzkopf Collection – 2,000 Objects from Three Millennia
The Schwarzkopf Collection is one of the largest special collections on the history of beauty care and personal grooming. It has been on permanent loan to the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum since 1995. The selection of objects on display in this room pertain to the history of the crafts and professions of the barber-surgeons, barbers, wigmakers, and hairdressers. The exhibits also artistically depict contemporary hair care and personal grooming and include fashion accessories and cosmetics that have been used to live up to cultural and social ideals of beauty.