The origins

Most likely, anatomical artefacts appeared at the University of Parma during the 17th  century, when the Farnese dukes governed the area. The items were prepared in an anatomical and pathological wax casting laboratory, whose real existence is still a subject of scientific investigation. From the end of the 18th century, during the directorship of Andrea Corsi, the Professor of anatomical Ceroplastics at Parma, the wax laboratory staff  moulded three full-sized statues of the human body. Unfortunately, only two of them have been preserved till nowadays; the features of these works are reminiscent of other wax models provided by the Florentine wax modeller Clemente Susini.

After an interruption at the half of the 19thcentury, wax modelling resumed at Parma at the end of the century, through the activity of the anatomist Lorenzo Tenchini, a follower of Cesare Lombroso’s doctrine of forensic anthropometry.
Named after Lorenzo Tenchini, the anthropological-criminological collection comprises approximately 400 human skulls of criminals and outcasts. They correspond to a collection of mummified human brains (not available for public viewing) and some dehydrated preparations from different body regions.

A unique feature of the Tenchini collection is the possibility of matching some of the skulls and mummified specimens with 37 wax mask (so called moulages), reproducing morphological features of the face of the people whose bodies Tenchini used for his anatomical dissections. To each mask is associated written information about the personal and legal history of the individual; these documents are preserved in the history section of the Anatomy Library.

The recent past and today

In the 1920s the anatomical collections were gathered up and housed in the Normal Anatomy Museum,  located in the building of the corresponding University  institute,  in Parma main hospital area.

Between the 1950s and the end of the century came the era of the new anatomical ceroplastics, thanks to Gaetano Ottaviani and Giacomo Azzali, anatomists in Parma. Under their supervision, several three-dimensional wax reproductions of the vertebrate lymphatic vessels were made. In 2006 all materials, both wax-modelled and dehydrated, were reorganized in the Museum of the Department of Human Anatomy, Pharmacology and Medical-forensic Sciences, which housed also the items of the section of Forensic Medicine. Moreover, Prof. Roberto Toni was named as the scientific director of the museum.

In 2012 after the reform of the University, the Museum of biomedical, biotechnological and translational sciences was founded. Nowadays it holds all the collections belonging to the previous museum and is also responsible for the care of other material coming from the section of pathological Anatomy.
At the present time, the activity of the Museum of biomedical, biotechnological and translational sciences comprises: biomedical robotics, human organogenesis, intersections between morphology and endocrinology over the centuries, techniques of wax modelling restoration, based on biological materials.

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