What kind of place stimulates creative minds and sparks a surge of invention and innovation? This series of blog posts explores that question with regard to innovation in the Berkshires.

The series is inspired by the Berkshire Museum’s participation in the Places of Invention exhibition, a project of the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History and supported by the National Science Foundation.


The Mimetic tissue Beating Heart has the feel and movement of a live human heart. The heart rate can be controlled remotely to run at different speeds and rhythms. Photo © 2015 The Chamberlain Group.

The Mimetic Tissue Beating Heart has the feel and movement of a live human heart. The heart rate can be controlled remotely to run at different speeds and rhythms. Photo © 2015 The Chamberlain Group.

What do the movie The Matrix and medical models have in common?  Not much, except that the same people who helped make the special effects in this film look so realistic are now making the parts for simulated surgeries look lifelike so as to assist practicing doctors. The people who worked on the special effects for this movie, Lisa and Eric Chamberlain, are also the founders of the Chamberlain Group, a design and modeling studio that was started in 1999 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. They worked on the visual effects for The Matrix in addition to other films such as Ghostbusters, Predator and the early Superman movies. Now that movies have more effects created by computers, the people at the Chamberlain Group have taken their model making skills to the medical world.


The company makes extremely accurate models of organs and other body parts for medical instruction. The models look, feel, and act as the actual human body would. With the company’s models, hospitals and medical schools can teach doctors without the use of animals or cadavers. Unlike the parts from dead animal and human bodies, some of the models can be used multiple times and are not unethical to practice on or difficult to obtain.  Doctors are able to perform the surgery on the models before they operate on any actual patients. This way they can learn the skills needed to do the procedure and how to communicate with other doctors without putting an actual human at risk.


After the models are designed and manufactured here in the Berkshires they are sold to hospitals and institutions all over the country. Every state except for Alaska has hospitals that use models from The Chamberlain Group. Even medical organizations in countries beyond the U.S. use this medical technology, such as the Deutsches Herzzentrum clinics in Berlin, Germany that are starting to use heart models to train doctors there. That is more magic than any special effect used in film!


For more information, visit www.thecgroup.com


The author, Amanda LeBarron, served as a Spark!Lab host in Berkshire Museum’s Spark!Lab, where opportunities for children and families to explore their inventiveness—to create, innovate, collaborate, and problem-solve—are available every day. 

Check out Berkshire Museum’s video highlighting the company that makes the paper on which United States currency is printed. Can you guess? You can find it on the Places of Invention interactive map, part of the Places of Invention exhibition at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

  1. Marion Davis, “A Cut Above: Surgery meets silicone, boston.com, http://archive.boston.com/lifestyle/health/articles/2011/02/21/a_cut_above_surgery_meets_silicone/
  2. Heather Won Tesoriero, “Be Still My Fake, Beating Heart,” Wall Street Journal Health Blog, www.thecgroup.com/wall-street-journal-health-blog-be-still-my-fake-beating-heart/