Valeda The Talking Transparent Woman
Megan Evans, executive director of the Kansas Learning Center for Health, gives us a quick rundown of the history of transparent people in medical museums.
"First there were the 'Visible Man and Woman,' designed by the Nazis," she says. Next came an American version, the "Transparent Man and Woman" (which included Valeda III), and then the "Transparent Anatomical Mannequin," a cheaper version that was made in the late 1960s. "The Barbie Doll mannequin," Megan calls it, referring to its exaggerated curves.
No matter which version you see, the effect is the same. If a woman's flesh was replaced with glass, and her internal organs were incandescent, this is what she would look like.
Valeda III arrived here in 1965, and she's been giving her light-up demonstrations to generations of Kansas school kids ever since. The house lights dim, curtains part, and the Transparent Woman is revealed on her pedestal. A female voice narrates as Valeda III slowly rotates to present her liver, kidneys, ovaries, etc., glowing at appropriate moments. Megan tells us that the show ran on an 8-track tape as late as 1992, but that now the spin-and-glow commands are on DVD.
The Kansas Learning Center for Health has other memorable teaching displays as well -- creepy CPR-dummy-style close-ups of orifices and organs -- but Valeda III is the class act here. She was even accessorized with a string of pearls on the museum's 40th anniversary. "There's one or two times when her liver didn't want to light up," Megan tells us, but overall Valeda III has been as dependable as a Kansas harvest.
"We've only had to replace one light bulb in her in the past 15 years."