|Mutter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia|
A wall of skulls. A black gangrenous hand. Many babies, pale as snow, slumped in glass jars. A wax arm showing the ravages of smallpox. A pair of desiccated children’s corpses, arms outstretched as if crucified. The skeletons of fetuses, some fantastically deformed — two tiny bodies sharing the same bulbous head — delicate as the bones of birds.
Yes, the Mutter Museum of The College of Surgeons of Philadelphia is ... ah ... challenging. But I had been to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Barnes Foundation, the Museum of the Constitution and the Rodin Museum. I only had one morning free, and the Mutter is a short walk across the Schuylkill River from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where I was to spend the afternoon researching a story.
|International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago|
No kidding. Nowadays, Albert Einstein would have to agree to have his brain removed from his body. But when he died in 1955, somebody just took it, cut into segments and put on slides, a collection of which are on display at the Mutter.
The gap between a medical display and a circus side show is not very wide, as evidence by the giant skeleton posed next to the dwarf's (their term). No Bearded Lady, but there is the "Soap Lady," a saponified body dug up in Philadelphia in 1875, the body fat turned into adipocere. It was something you'd pay a quarter to see behind a tent, as well as the 70-pound ovarian cyst. Or 50 cents not to see.
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