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A person's arm is shown on a large screen

A digital pepper’s ghost for Broken Bones, Suffering Spirits

Mütter MuseumThe Phantom Limb Immersive Gallery Experience

Imagine you are a Union soldier on a Civil War battlefield, surrounded by the sounds of cannons, gunshots, and groans of the injured. Suddenly, you feel a bullet tearing through your arm. What’s next?

On the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we collaborated with the Mütter Museum to create The Phantom Limb in-gallery interactive for their exhibition Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits: Injury, Death, and Healing in Civil War Philadelphia. This interactive provides a visceral experience of the physical injuries and emotional trauma inflicted upon Civil War soldiers in order to provide visitors with a deeper understanding of how war forever changes the lives of the injured.

A "Select your attributes" screen.
A red curtain with a tassel hanging from it.

The experience begins with visitors selecting their gender, height and skin tone. Stepping before a mirror in a darkened enclosure, they view their limb transformed before their eyes. Virtual battlefield injuries are visually superimposed as their limb is bandaged, infected, amputated, and finally fitted for a prosthetic. This unique and historically accurate interactive experience marries the real world and the virtual — with a healthy dose of Victorian-era parlor tricks — to provide a compelling and visceral participatory experience.

A man standing in front of a mirror
A screen that reads "A medical assistant gives you chloroform to knock you out".


We are very impressed with the interactive you developed for the exhibit... You and your colleagues responded well to our inchoate thoughts and ideas about the interactive and the realization of it exceeded our expectations.

Robert Hicks, (Former) Director, Mütter Museum

I had wondered how the attendees — being a very critical audience — would react to the interactive. Result: a huge hit! Some of these historians and other attendees lined up for a second and third time! Everyone loved it!

Robert Hicks regarding 21st Annual Civil War Medicine Conference attendees at the Mütter Museum