The International Museum of Surgical Science sounds a little creepy at first. Don’t get me wrong, there are some items on display that will leave you grateful to be alive in the most recent era of modern medicine. However, the IMSS is actually a beautiful and sophisticated mausoleum for early anatomical illustrations and painting, studies of surgical procedures, and medical inventions–some genius, some terrifying. There is even an original “iron lung” once used to help polio patients breath. One of my favorite features of the museum is a recreation of an old apothecary, like a frontier-age Walgreens Pharmacy, filled with old pill bottles and medicines viles.The artwork surpasses medical illustrations of the Gray’s Anatomy sort (referring to the book, not the show of course). Rather, the IMSS can feel like a exhibition of Body Worlds in the style and craft of Leonardo Da Vinci.
This past spring I was able to go to a show called Flux: Responding to Head & Neck Cancer, which was a multidisciplinary, contemporarty art show commenting on how people deal with the scars of life-saving, but often disfiguring surgeries. Another great collaboration of the IMSS includes regular exhibitions featuring work by graduate students of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Biomedical Visualization program, which I would describe as a biomedical MFA program.
The museum is located on Lake Shore Drive, overlooking lake Michigan. CTA busses stop right near the museum, and it’s also a quick and picturesque walk from the Red Line Clark/Division stop.