Science on Tap: Jane E. Boyd and Matthew Fisher, “Out on a (Phantom) Limb: A Civil War Era Amputation Immersive Experience”

Amputation Methods

Amputation methods as illustrated in a
19th-century surgery manual from the
Historical Medical Library of the
College of Physicians.

Date: October 14, 2013
Time: 6:00 p.m.

National Mechanics
22 S. Third Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: No Registration Required

Science on Tap is a monthly gathering that features a brief, informal presentation by a scientist or other expert followed by lively conversation.

How does war affect our bodies and minds? The creators of Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits: Injury, Death, and Healing in Civil War Philadelphia, a new long-term exhibit at The Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, wanted to provide the visitor with rare insight into the experience of losing a limb at this time in history. 

In addition to the display of anatomical specimens (including bones shattered by bullets), medical instruments, personal memorabilia from the war, and vivid eyewitness accounts and images, the exhibit invites the visitor to enter into a Victorian-era black-box illusion, with a 21st-century twist. 

The “Phantom Limb” experience allows visitors to configure their personal characteristics on a touch screen and then enter a curtained room in which they (and they alone) see their arm being shot, infected, and amputated, complete with phantom limb syndrome. Part parlor trick and part interactive technology, the illusion combines a conventional mirror with an embedded a video monitor displaying a historically accurate and anatomically correct limb.

Join guest curator Jane E. Boyd and Matthew Fisher, president of Night Kitchen Interactive, for a peek behind the scenes of this brand-new exhibit. Learn how the Night Kitchen team worked with the Mütter to create this amazing amputation illusion, and find out how you, too, can get your arm cut off and live to tell the tale!

Art historian Jane E. Boyd, Ph.D., was one of the guest curators for Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits. She is an independent curator and freelance writer, editor, and translator in Philadelphia, specializing in the history and visual culture of science, technology, and medicine. Jane has worked on projects for all five of the Science on Tap sponsoring institutions.

Matthew Fisher is president and cofounder of Night Kitchen Interactive, where for over 15 years he has produced interpretative and educational experiences for arts, cultural heritage, and science organizations. Matthew is passionate about the transformative power of interactive storytelling and engagement, and he speaks on these topics at museum conferences and universities regularly. Before Night Kitchen, Matthew studied film at Vassar College and worked in radio and recording label management for several years. Visit to see their fancy new website.

Presented by the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Open to the public (age 21+ or accompanied by chaperone 25 years or older).

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