Have you met TAM?
Discovery Place Science
TAM, which stands for Transparent Anatomical Mannikin, is one of the newest additions to the Explore More Me lab at Discovery Place Science. But this anatomical model is a familiar face to many native Charlotteans.
Millions of school children around the country were taught health classes by TAMs, though only 42 models were ever produced. Discovery Place owns one of the first models, which was installed at Discovery Place Nature (formerly Charlotte Nature Museum) in 1968.
TAM arrived at Discovery Place Nature for the Museum’s Hall of Health to offer a new interactive approach to teaching human anatomy. Using state-of-the-art technology, this see-through woman could illuminate specific parts of her body to reveal her different anatomical systems and then talk to students about them using a pre-recorded voice over.
The 20-minute physiology lecture was full of audience participation where TAM would say, "Lift one of your arms high in the air. Feel how your shoulder muscles are lifting your arm bones for you? You can see most of my bones,” and would then illuminate her skeletal system. She also showcased her voice box, diaphragm, intestines, lungs, heart, gall bladder and ovaries, and she could turn around to show her kidneys.
After teaching over 325,000 students at Discovery Place Nature for more than a decade, TAM was relocated to Discovery Place Science to be the featured exhibit in the brand new Life Center when the Museum opened in 1981. She was a staple exhibit at Discovery Place Science until 2005 when she was retired.
Though many TAMs were phased out in the early 2000s by more advanced technology, she became a generational icon of health education and even a pop culture image after appearing on the cover of Nirvana's 1993 album "In Utero."
Despite her retirement from Discovery Place, many guests have asked about TAM over the years. With the opening of the new Explore More Me lab at Discovery Place Science, TAM was brought back to life for this new biomedical experience. Thanks to technology such as touch screens, tablets and mobile devices, interactive learning has come a long way since TAM. While she can no longer move and her light feature has burnt out, TAM stands at the entrance to the new biomedical lab as a reminder of how technology has helped generations of students understand the human body.