Beyond the Bone Box

Drawing on the rich connections between the holdings of the Warren Anatomical Museum (WAM) and the manuscripts, archival, and rare book collections housed in the Center for the History of Medicne (CHoM), Beyond the Bone Box is a pilot project to build circulating special collections resources with which students of multiple disciplines can physically engage with artifact and document surrogates anywhere on the Harvard campus.

Inspired by Harvard Medical School’s retired bone box program, which allowed medical students to borrow sets of human bones for home study, and developed in partnership with Harvard faculty, curators, archivists, and librarians, this project develops circulating resources that contain 3D-printed copies of WAM case studies that our highly contextualized with surrogates of special collections materials. Through this program, the Center seeks to democratize access to unique and sensitive collections through quality fungible surrogates and engender new forms of engagement with Harvard’s special collections across its library system.

Image of the 3D prints from Beyond the Bone Box


Beyond the Bone Box was funded by a Harvard Library S. T. Lee Innovation Grant starting in 2018. The project was designed by Warren Anatomical Museum Curator, Dominic Hall, and implemented by Museum Programming Assistant Alyssa Brophy. Initial Bone Box case studies were curated by Hall, Anne Harrington, Ph.D (Franklin L. Ford Professor, Faculty Dean, Pforzheimer House, Harvard University), and Julie Reed (Teaching Assistant in History of Science, Harvard University) with input from the spring 2019 students of Harvard HS 97.

Further collaboration on the case of Phineas Gage was provided by Dana A. Stearns, M.D. (Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Director of Anatomy Education for Pathways, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School) and Sabine Hildebrandt, MD (Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Lecturer on Global Health and Social Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School). Administrative and description support was providing by Emily Gustainis (Deputy Director, Center for the History of Medicine, Countway Library of Medicine) and Jessica Sedgwick (Collections Services Archivist, Center for the History of Medicine, Countway Library of Medicine). Graham Holt (Director of the Office of Creative Solutions, Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, Boston Children's Hospital) developed the initial Phineas Gage 3D print from CT scans taken by Peter Raitu and Ian Talos (Surgical Planning Laboratory, Brigham & Women’s Hospital), and provided technical guidance for the 3D printing workstation at the Center for the History of Medicine.