I Love the Dead: A Visit to the Mütter Museum

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the Mütter Museum takes the “classiness” of a science museum and fuses it with exhibits that would look right at home behind the curtain of a sideshow. The museums collection is comprised of medical oddities and arcane surgical equipment (birthing forceps anyone?). Although it takes up only three large rooms the walls are packed with thousands of specimens. Some are skeletal remains, some are in formaldehyde, and some are dried and dyed, but all are intriguing and many are profoundly disturbing.

Among the many highlights are dried ovarian cysts the size of beach balls, intricately detailed wax sculptures of various diseases and growths, a ceramic cast of Chang and Eng the famous conjoined twins, a myriad of what carnies would call “pickled punks”—deformed dead babies preserved in formaldehyde, hundreds of skulls (many rotted and pocked from syphilis and one with a bullet stuck in its forehead), and, the piece de resistance, a 9 foot long enlarged colon…dried and preserved for your “educational benefit.”

The brochures and literature tout the museum as “disturbingly informative” and stress that even though the original intent of collecting these pieces was for physicians to get acquainted with different afflictions the present day mission of the museum is to “raise questions about life, death, and conceptions of beauty.” I think you’ll agree that’s not as much as a draw as: “We’ve got a two headed baby skeleton!”

There are informational placards accompanying each specimen so a visitor can choose to learn as much or as little as they want. This makes the museum perfect for both Cannibal Corpse roadies and medical students alike.

So if you find yourself in Philadelphia and you have a strong constitution there is no better place to kill an afternoon than in the hallowed halls of the Mütter Museum.

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