Take a Virtual Tour of the Mütter Museum and Its Many Anatomically Peculiar Exhibits

A few months before Philaelphia’s Müt­ter Muse­um, exer­cis­ing now famil­iar COVID-19 pre­cau­tions, closed its doors to the pub­lic, it co-spon­sored a parade to hon­or the vic­tims to the pre­vi­ous century’s Span­ish Flu pan­dem­ic, as well as “those who keep us safe today.”

The event was part of a tem­po­rary exhi­bi­tion, Spit Spreads Death: The Influen­za Pan­dem­ic of 1918–19 in Philadel­phia.

Anoth­er tem­po­rary exhi­bi­tion, Going Viral: Infec­tion Through the Ages, opened in Novem­ber, and now seems even stronger proof that the muse­um, whose 19th-cen­tu­ry dis­play cab­i­nets are housed in the his­toric Col­lege of Physi­cians, is as con­cerned with the future as it is with the past.

For now, all tours must be under­tak­en vir­tu­al­ly.

Above, cura­tor Anna Dhody, a phys­i­cal and foren­sic anthro­pol­o­gist and Direc­tor of the Müt­ter Research Insti­tute, gives a brief intro­duc­tion to some of the best known arti­facts in the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion.

The muse­um’s many antique skulls and med­ical odd­i­ties may invite com­par­isons to a ghoul­ish sideshow attrac­tion, an impres­sion Dhody cor­rects with her warm, mat­ter-of-fact deliv­ery and respect­ful acknowl­edg­ment of the humans whose sto­ries have been pre­served along with their remains:

Mary Ash­ber­ry, an achon­droplas­tic dwarf, died from com­pli­ca­tions of a Cesare­an sec­tion, as doc­tors who had yet to learn the impor­tance of ster­il­iz­ing instru­ments and wash­ing hands, attempt­ed to help her deliv­er a baby who proved too big for her pelvis. (The baby’s head was crushed as well. Its skull is dis­played next to its mother’s skele­ton.)

Madame Dimanche is rep­re­sent­ed by a wax mod­el of her face, instant­ly rec­og­niz­able due to the 10-inch cuta­neous horn that began grow­ing from her fore­head when she was in her 70s. (It was even­tu­al­ly removed in an ear­ly exam­ple of suc­cess­ful plas­tic surgery.)

Albert Ein­stein and the con­joined twins Chang and Eng Bunker are among the house­hold names grac­ing the museum’s col­lec­tion.

One of the most recent addi­tions is the skele­ton of artist and dis­abil­i­ty aware­ness advo­cate Car­ol Orzel, who edu­cat­ed the pub­lic and incom­ing Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia med­ical stu­dents about fibrodys­pla­sia ossi­f­i­cans pro­gres­si­va (FOP), a rare dis­or­der that turned her mus­cle and con­nec­tive tis­sue to bone. She told her physi­cian, Fred­er­ick Kaplan, below, that she want­ed her skele­ton to go to the Müt­ter, to join that of fel­low FOP suf­fer­er, Har­ry East­lack… pro­vid­ed some of her prized cos­tume jew­el­ry could be dis­played along­side. It is.

Get bet­ter acquaint­ed with the Müt­ter Museum’s col­lec­tion through this playlist.

The exhib­it Spit Spreads Death is cur­rent­ly slat­ed to stay up through 2024. While wait­ing to vis­it in per­son, you can watch an ani­ma­tion of the Span­ish flu’s spread, and explore an inter­ac­tive map show­ing the demo­graph­ics of the infec­tion.

h/t Tanya Elder

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of 30 World-Class Muse­ums & Safe­ly Vis­it 2 Mil­lion Works of Fine Art

Take a Long Vir­tu­al Tour of the Lou­vre in Three High-Def­i­n­i­tion Videos

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of The Uffizi Gallery in Flo­rence, the World-Famous Col­lec­tion of Renais­sance Art

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Here lat­est project is a series of free down­load­able posters, encour­ag­ing cit­i­zens to wear masks in pub­lic and wear them prop­er­ly. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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