Small but information-packed museum lets you
Get to the heart of the matter
Story by JAMIE LEE PRICER / photo by DAN MACMEDAN
You have three guesses and the first two don't count. Question: What is with you every second of
your life, and, although you can hear it, you can't see it?
Answer: Your heart.
If you have even the slightest interest in how your ticker works, visit Heartland, the desert's
smallest but most intricate museum at Heart Inshtute of the Desert in Rancho Mirage.
Everything here is heart oriented; from the shape of the building to the red plastic piggy-bank
heart where you drop your donations
When you enter,there's no doubt where you are. Walk through the institute's main entrance,
make a quick left and head for the thing that looks like Godzilla's heart. It's actually an enlarged
human atrioventricular valve carved from urethane foam covered with fiberglass skin, the same
as a custom race car.
Your footstep into the two-story-tall valve triggers the deep resonating sound of a beating heart.
White tendinous strands, looking like panels from a collapsing parachute, are anchored on
magnified papillary muscles. Proportionately, you are smaller than an ant.
The overwhelming, but fun, effect is a prelude to 10 more interactive exhibits.
A model of the inside of the heart, seems massive compared to Rita Goodnote.
"Our focus here is to educate patrons about heart disease and reduce heart disease mortality,"
says Adam Rubinstein, museum curator and designer and creator of most of the exhibits. He also
is director of medical illustration for the institute.
Some 155,000 visitors, many of them school children, have toured Heartland since i opened in
1988. The museum has developed one exhibit at a time and now fills its compact space.
"We know where we are going to expand," Rubinstein says, pointing to a patio on the institute's
west side, "but we haven't started fund-raising yet."
The fun continues straight out of "Star Trek." You activate an enlarged coronary artery display
by placing your hand on a lighted wall panel. You step into a textured pink tube enlarged 1,427
times, replete with enough cholesterol plaque to discourage any further visits to McDonald's.
The plaque inflates to show how arteries clog and heart attacks occur.
A comparatively mundane diagram of the circulatory system shows the path of blood through
your heart and lungs.
It's hard not to touch a marvelous soft panel filled with colorful outer-space looking blobs, which
turn out to be blood components. A smaller panel with push buttons tells you what they are and
what they do. We've all heard of red blood cells and platelets, but how about eosinophils,
neutrophils, basophils and monocytes?
Have you been naughty or nice to your heart? Another display rates your personal risk for heart
A video tape housed in a duo of giant pears, each the size of a refrigerator, gives advice on
low-fat, low-cholesterol food and how to reduce cholesterol levels and heart attack risk through diet.
6, above, checks out the blood corpuscle wall and a video about how blood works.
It's sort of a "how to pass on the chips and dips" message brought to you
by the Palm Springs branch of Les Toques Blanches, a chef's organization.
The only chair in the museum is at a self-test blood pressure station, the same as the ones you
see in grocery and drug stores. Visitors squeeze soft black bulbs like those at the end of blood
pressure cuffs to turn on adjacent lighted displays that explain hypertension causes and
Sanchez, right, is seeing what its like inside a dogged artery.
Blood pressure, one of the displays explains, is one of three major modifiable risk factors of
heart disease; the other two are cigarette smoking and high blood cholesterol. Sobering side
effects of high blood pressure are heart disease, stroke, kidney
problems and artenosclerosis or hardening of the artenes.
You can check out your heartbeat at another display. A diagram shows you where to place a
stethoscope on your chest, and, if you do it properly, you'll hear amplified whooshes,
rub-a-dub-dubs or lub-lubblubs. Push a selection of buttons to hear a variety of irregular
heartbeats, like an atrial gallop or mitral regurgitation.
Three giant cigarettes, each a bit smaller than a boxing bag, glow and puff smoke while a video
describes the evils of smoking.
The museum's newest exhibit, an animatronic beating heart perched on a mirrored podium, is
about the size of an ostrich.
Marie De Juliis examines a model of the heart. The display offers all kinds of information about
If you are a coronary artery bypass patient and want to get a firm, three-dimensional grasp of
what is going to come and go during your surgery, this exhibit is for you. The intertwined
network of blood vessels entering and exiting the heart are very clear.
For all its interesting and instructional exhibits, even Heartland can't explain a simple cardiac
problem most everyone suffers a time or two.
How is it that your heart can break apart over love, but keep on ticking?
Jamie Lee Pricer has been a journalist in the Coachella Valley for 10 years.
All exhibits seen on this page produced by Adam Rubinstein.
Reprinted with permission.
Giant animatronic heart-
Veterinary Illustration of Skeletal System-
Veterinary Illustration of Digestive System-
Animated medical illustration of a blocked coronary artery-
Womens body with age-
Open heart open-
Medical illustration of the structural makeup of a coronary artery-
AIDS virus attacking t-cell-
Veterinary Illustration of Muscular System-
Women with chest pain-
Logo and package design-
Electronic illustration for Stroke Advertisement -
Electronic illustration of a papilloma in the lactiferous ducts of the breast-
Electronic illustration of a clot in a coronary artery-
Life Cycle of Hook Worm-
Scabies mite book illustration-
Award Winning Ceramic Floor Design Gets to the Heart of Wellness -
Interior Design of Heart Hospital Patient Rooms -
Interior Design of Hospital Lobby -
Exhibit Design and the California Museum of the Heart -
Museum gets to the heart of the matter -
644 Indian Trail
Palm Springs CA, 92264
| Copyright 2001. Site design and layout byKahlil Amin, Adam Rubinstein, and Sam KangAdam G. Rubinstein, Mark Molchan, Jamie Lee Pricer, Medical illustation, Medical illustrator, artists, medical art, heartland museum, medical museum, modern sculpture, hospital art, unique, exhibit design, sculpture, exhibit design, animatronic sculpture, Rancho Mirage, interactive art, interior design, design of public places, industrial design, exhibit building, custom sculpture, three dimensional, large scale sculpture, museum design, Rita Goodnote, biological illustration, set sculpture, set design, special effects|