Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pennsylvania Road Trip - The Mutter Museum

Albert Einstein's brain sections
I have two travel oriented books in which The Mutter Museum is recommended, and so I knew that if ever I was in center city Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I would need to visit this museum.  These two books, Offbeat Museums by Saul Rubin, and Little Museums by Lynne Arany and Archie Hobson peaked my interest about this small museum, and besides that, daughter Lindsay gave it a thumbs up following her visit there last year.

The Wall of Skulls
This museum is considered to be one of America's finest museums of medical history.  Beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments are displayed here in a 19th century "cabinet museum" setting.

The goal of the Mutter Museum is to help the public experience and understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body, while appreciating the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.  As there are no photos allowed in the museum, all photos herein are web photos.

Preserved brain specimens
Among medical museums, this one may attract both medical students and thrill seekers.  It's where you go to see the preserved body of a woman known as the Soap Lady, a tumor from Grover Cleveland's jaw, a face mask from Abraham Lincoln's face, and parts from other prominent bodies.  There is an impressive skull collection, various sets of unborn siamese twins preserved in jars, and an astonishing assortment of swallowed objects.

This place is also where we saw all sorts of outmoded medical instruments, many looking quite barbaric to me.  We saw advances in technique and technology that have dealt with the problems that led to some of the "contributions" in this museum.

There were several specimens that especially captured my interest.  I was utterly fascinated with a collection of slides containing pieces of Albert Einstein's brain.  Wow.

In another display case was a colon the size of a cow's that was removed at autopsy from a severely constipated man in 1892.  It was huge - several feet long.  My husband, of course, made the snarky remark about that being a man who was truly very full of s***.

A plaster cast of the torsos of the famous Siamese twins Chang and Eng was on display, made following the autopsy in 1874.  The cast clearly showed the skin and cartilage connection between their bodies.

There were skeletons of a giant and a dwarf.  The giant skeleton belonged to a Kentucky man who was 7 feet 6 inches tall.  The museum acquired that specimen in 1877.  Earlier, in 1857, the museum received the skeleton of a woman who was 3 feet 6 inches tall.  She had died several days after a difficult and unsuccessful childbirth attempt.

The collection of Dr. Chevalier Jackson, who practiced medicine during the first half of the 1900's, consists of items he removed from patients' food and air passages with his own specially designed instruments.  They are exhibited in the museum in drawers, and include dentures, safety pins, toy jacks, a  "Perfect Attendance" pin, toy animals, board game markers, and pieces of food and bones.

And, that's a lot to swallow.

Just like many of the museum's specimen displays.

No comments:

Post a Comment