Collection on the History of Obstetrics
Up to the 18th century, pregnant women were mostly cared for by female neighbours and relatives or midwives. Usually, women gave birth in their homes. However, gradually physicians got interested in pregnancy and childbirth. During the age of Enlightenment, Göttingen University played an important role in the establishment of academic obstetrics. In 1751, Albrecht von Haller initiated the foundation of the first universitary maternal clinic worldwide, serving for the education of midwives and medical students, as well. Its directors were called accoucheurs, from the French accoucher – to give birth.
These medical obstetricians compiled a collection of 5000 objects covering all areas of obstetrics. The collection served as clinical documentation and as teaching tools and also helped in establishing the emerging scientific field as an academic subject. The exhibition focuses on the period from 1750 to 1850. Obstetric instruments, birth chairs and illustrative models as well as historical patients’ registers and birth records provide an insight into the medical and social practices of childbirth in the Göttingen “Accouchierhaus” of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Göttingen Collection of Medical Moulages
Skin conditions render pain externally visible for all. The detailed wax casts of body parts and areas of skin changed by disease are called moulages, from the French mouler – to mould. They are designed to reproduce form, colour and texture of the diseased body part as close to life as possible to be able to document diagnostic findings. The moulages were used as objects in teaching, demonstrating and collecting. Many moulages were produced by internationally renowned moleurs: Lotte Volger, Zürich; Alfons Kröner, Breslau; Fritz Kolbow, R. Henning, Wien.
Today, moulages are of considerable medical and cultural historical significance. As unique objects, they visualize disease and objectify pathological processes of the body. Consequently, the exhibition reveals to the visitor the historical patient behind the wax casts. Additional exhibits and texts foreground the importance of the skin as the outer border of a person, having an impact on self-perception and perception by others.