Thursday, November 29, 2012

Online Veterinary Anatomy Museum Injects High-Tech Media & Movement into the Study of Equine Structure

What's your vision of an anatomy museum? Giant paintings on the walls? A sculpture of a hoof? Think again! The foot in this photo is from a 3-D movable program that is one of the showpieces of the new Online Veterinary Anatomy Museum. (Larger image © Hoofcare Publishing)

An anatomy museum is a wonderful place. But who among us can travel to Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology or to London's Natural History Museum when we feel like studying anatomy?

If we can't go to the museum, can the museum come to us?

Guess what? It already has.

Forget everything you think you know about museums. How long would the average person stand and stare at the image of a horse's foot in a museum? This fascinating plastinate of a P3 fracture (© HC Biovision) was created by Dr. Christoph von Horst. The National Museum of Racing in Saratoga displayed his plastinated hoof specimen in a recent exhibit, and enlarged photos of others. But all people could do was stare at them. (Larger image © Hoofcare Publishing)

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) of London has a wonderful anatomy museum, as well as an active, inspired support department specializing in media and online education. The RVC has been collaborating with other veterinary schools in Europe to create an online veterinary anatomy museum...and it went "live" this week.

The Online Veterinary Anatomy Museum ("OVAM") is like a greatest hits album of media and images related to the presentation and teaching of veterinary anatomy. Just as every species has its place in the tree of life, everything that crawls, flies, runs or hops will have a legitimate home here--or, rather, its skeleton would.

But the curators did not set out to document the entire world of animal anatomy. Instead, they have chosen--or, in some cases, created--select materials that are superior for teaching anatomy and getting students involved with learning how animals move, breathe, digest or reproduce.

Until recently, students learned anatomy by studying flat, black-and-white line drawings and doing dissections. Video changed that, and interactive media are changing things yet again.

3D image loop showing the insertion of the deep digital flexor tendon courtesy of Dr Prisca Noble, Morpho Imaging, Liege, Belgium. (Note: only a small portion of the DDFT is shown; the tendon extends up the limb.) Would you remember the insertion of the DDFT better if you stared at a line drawing--or if you watched this video, which was designed for vet students.

Yet no university can provide all the resources that students would like--and the study of veterinary medicine means that multiple species need to be presented. So universities in Great Britain, and then in all of Europe, decided to pool their resources, for the benefit of students everywhere and with the goal of a greater collection as a sum of their contributions.

And so the Online Veterinary Anatomy Museum was born.

Anatomy education isn't just about memorizing structures. The universities are also developing modules that enable students to self-test. The University of Murcia in Spain developed web-based tools for students to review their ability to identify the structures in the horse, beginning with the distal limb. The student drags a label onto the image, pointing at the structure s/he thinks matches the label. The app then scores the number of correct answers.

How do you cut the ribbon at the door to an online museum? Someone somewhere pushed the "go live" button, with fingers crossed that it would work...and cheered when it did.

The museum is beginning with an online library of approximately 150 still images of horse anatomy specimen, plus some stellar animated projects, including a fully rotatable 3-D distal limb of a horse (musculo-skeletal plus a removable hoof capsule) that is being created expressly for the museum by the Royal Vet College.

OVAM has only been with us a week. It's not perfect yet, especially for those who live their web lives on a mobile device. The 3-D foot is a work in progress and (so far) requires the download of a display tool to make it work.
Resources on OVAM include contributions from commercial publishers. A portion of Professor Jean-Marie Denoix's landmark book, The Equine Distal Limb, will now be just a click away, thanks to the generosity of Manson Publishers.
The web site, however, is not a secret. What is true is that the museum's first and foremost goal is to support veterinary students in their studies. What is also clearly stated is that the materials may not be used for commercial purposes.

A few weeks ago, this blog reported on the new movement toward "Open Source" publishing and hailed laminitis research being freely available from one issue of the Equine Veterinary Journal in open source.

OVAM is cut from the same cloth. It will grow and flourish, it will amaze its visitors and, if it receives continued support and funding, it should quickly change the way that animal anatomy is studied and appreciated all over the world.

It's been online a week now, so maybe it already has!

Visit the Online Veterinary Anatomy Museum (OVAM). And if anyone ever tells you that anatomy is boring, you'll know they've never seen what's exhibited there.

--written by Fran Jurga

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All photos except the imaginary museum are © Online Veterinary Anatomy Museum and the universities that created them. While some may be available under Creative Commons license, the permission criteria is for educational, non-commercial use.

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