Terrorific Travels: The Mutter Museum
written by Kerry E.B. Black
Medical abnormalities can provide horrific materials for fertile imaginations. The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians on 22nd Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is designed to enhance appreciation of the mysteries of the human body, the museum explores the history of treatment and diagnosis of diseases and disorders. Still, the scope of its offerings could offer any horror fan heart palpation.
Speaking of the heart, need an off-beat outing for celebrate St. Valentine’s Day? The Mütter Museum displays human hearts for up-close inspection. Get under the skin while exploring skeletons, including the tallest male skeleton in North America displayed beside the remains of a dwarf and a two-headed baby, and a wall of 139 skull specimens. The Mutter Museum hosts preservations and casts of body parts, both healthy and abnormal. Wet samples and models. Human hairballs. Slides with sections of Albert Einstein’s brain. 5,500 types of medical instruments and apparati spanning centuries. Cabinet-style displays and presentations allow an appreciation for the human condition otherwise unavailable.
Visitors can meet the Soap Lady, named because a fatty substance called adipocere encases the remains. Authorities exhumed the body in Philadelphia in 1875. (Adipocere does not commonly form. It may form in warm, alkaline, and airless environment like this body’s burial site.)
Exhibitions explore hot button issues like an exploration of vaccinations and medicine in times of war. On-line, the museum offers a look at astronomy in medicine from the 15th and 16th centuries and other topics.
Be sure to stop in the delightfully off-color gift shop. Along with glass skull steins and an “I heart guts” plush, some of the less-tasteful items for sale include “soap lady on a rope” and conjoined twin cookie cutters.
Established in the 19th Century, the museum continues to dedicate itself to providing in-depth research opportunities for physicians, but the doors open to the layman daily, except holidays. It is, however, open for visits on Halloween.