Visitors Explore the Heart at Medical Museum's Valentine's Day Program

February 23, 2011, Washington, D.C.: A recent Valentine's Day program offered Museum visitors a chance to get up close and personal with real animal hearts, while learning more about the vital organ that is the symbol of the romantic holiday.

Participants visited three stations set up in the Museum: a dissection table featuring animal hearts; an area with pictures and models providing information about how the human heart develops before birth; and a Valentine's Day card-making station.

Many young participants flocked to the Museum's classroom to create some very unique Valentine's Day cards. Using heart stamps, colored paper, markers, colored pencils, and more, Museum staff helped visitors create cards decorated with anatomically correct hearts. The messages written inside varied from silly to sincere— a favorite was, "I anatomically heart you."

At a station set up in the Museum's "Visibly Human" exhibit, Emily Wilson, technician for the Museum's Human Developmental Anatomy Center, dissected hearts from a sheep, rat, ostrich, and pig to teach visitors about how the heart functions. She also spoke about heart complications, as well as the similarities and differences between the animal hearts.

Babetta Gonzalez, a participant from Virginia, said she came to the program to see the dissections and was not disappointed.

"I was really excited to see the hearts and the dissections because I'd never seen a heart dissection before," she said. "It was really awesome to watch and I'm looking forward to drawing the hearts."

Wilson received some assistance during the dissections from Malini Seth, a participant who has done heart research and works at the National Institutes of Health. Seth, who brought her daughter, said she was attracted to the program because it offered visitors the opportunity to see real hearts and learn about how they function.

"A program like this is great because it really helps people learn," she said.