Magnetic audio tape with a presentation in English of the Transparent Cow, 1959
© Deutsches Hygiene-Museum
The ‘Transparent Figures’ are among the best-known objects produced by the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum (DHMD); they remain key objects of its permanent collection to this day. Showcased to audiences of millions worldwide, they shaped the way in which knowledge of the human body was communicated in the course of the 20th century.
The significance of the Transparent Figures as both artistic and artisanal masterpieces during the many decades of their manufacture at the DHMD has barely been studied at all, especially for the period 1945 to 1999. And yet, the close links between science, technical innovation, craftsmanship and aesthetics would be a pertinent field of research.
The Deutsches Hygiene-Museum possesses outstanding reference objects on the Transparent Figures, mainly photographs (approx. 5,000) and audio tapes (approx. 200) from the GDR era. It had not been possible until now to study this material as it was not accessible to research due for example to the lack of playback equipment for magnetic audio tapes. Its digitisation is designed to enable an analysis of the complex manufacturing processes and the historical changes in presentation forms with regard to both the chosen staging and the mediated content. Given the ever increasing significance of digital collections for research and mediation, the project should also provide an incentive for the further digitisation of the inventories at the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum.
Once their contents have been accessed, the digital reproductions are to be made available to the Transparent Figures interdisciplinary research platform and then published in the online collection catalogue of the DHMD and the portal of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB), Germany’s digital library.
Translation by Stephen Grynwasser