Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

From the garbage to a gallery wall – the transformation of anatomy to art

Tuesday, 13 March 2018 12:04pm

anatomy prints image
Anatomy Museum Curator Chris Smith with halftone copper plates of electron microscope images which are being transformed into works of art in the Central Library’s Otakou Press Room.

anatomy-prints-small-image
Some of the images being created.

Two University of Otago libraries and a Dunedin printmaker have been working together to create art from long-forgotten anatomical images.

Anatomy Museum curator Chris Smith says halftone copper plates of electron microscope images were saved from the rubbish skip during a clean-up of the museum about two years ago.

The packages, which had never been opened, were “beautifully tied up with string with all the various aspects of customs declaration on there”.

The plates were brought to Dunedin by University of Glasgow Regius Professor of Anatomy Dr George Wyburn, who worked at Otago's Anatomy Department in the mid-1970s.

Much of Dr Wyburn’s career was spent researching embryology, and many of the plates show images of cells in the oviduct of domestic hens.

Due to their age, the only way to reproduce the images on the plates is on old technology printing presses.

Luckily, the University has such technology on-site in the Central Library’s Otakou Press Room.

Printmaker and visual artist Lynn Taylor has been processing some of them on a Vandercook printing press, transforming them into works of art.

Many of the images look like aerial landscapes resembling estuaries and rivers. She is experimenting with printing them over old topographical maps, along with using various principles of printmaking such as reflection, rotation, overlaying and colour.

As her works are often driven by an interest in research, with fragmented layers of historical references, this project suits her well.

Special Collections Librarian Dr Donald Kerr describes the project as a “sample of perfect collegiality’’ and “perfect external engagement” of the libraries with the community.

Exhibitions of the artworks are planned for Dunedin and Wellington in October.