In 1970, a new exhibit at the Mayo Medical Museum was in the spotlight. The exhibit, “The Vital Process of Breathing,” was free standing so that a viewer’s minimal involvement was to walk around it. Light flowing through an outline drawing presented a simplified version of inhalation by which oxygen is supplied to the cells, and exhalation by which carbon dioxide, a product of metabolism, passes into the atmosphere.
The viewer pushed a button to activate a film of animated anatomical drawings which demonstrated the mechanism of breathing. Commentary, synchronized to the drawings, explained the process.
The curved lines of the exhibit’s construction conformed to sequential flow of drawings, models and text which demonstrated how oxygen passes into the lungs, through the blood, and into the cells. Models mounted on the face of the exhibit were of durable materials so they could be touched without damage.
According to Mayo Medical Museum’s health education director at the time, Dale Shaffer, a museum, he believed, should involve a visitor in some way—let them hold something in their hand, touch a model, press a button.
The museum offered more than exhibits to its visitors. Local health classes visited the museum for programs presented by Shaffer.
Possessed of the most important quality of a teacher—he enjoyed teaching—Shaffer regarded requests for such programs as opportunity to contribute to the Mayo commitment to medical education. It’s not too improbable to speculate that in any such group there’s a future neurosurgeon getting their first lesson in neuroanatomy.