Look at the giant colon!
August 16, 2004 6:54 PM   Subscribe

The Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia is a collection of medical oddities and exhibits about disease. It is the home of the Soap Lady, Chang and Eng's liver, a tumor from a U.S. president, and a rather massive colon. Gretchen Worden, director of the museum since 1988, recently passed away.
posted by titanshiny (20 comments total)
One of the hidden gems of Philly. My favorite is the "What Killed the Presidents" exhibit, a fascinating romp through the wonderful world of 19th-century infectious disease and lead poisioning.
posted by PrinceValium at 7:21 PM on August 16, 2004

i've seen something similar to a plasticized human that was more art than science. It was a man running while his muscles flew off of him like speed lines. does anyone know what that was from?
posted by bob sarabia at 7:21 PM on August 16, 2004

bob sarabia:
Are you perhaps referring to the work of Honore Fragonard? That sounds like something he may have done...
posted by woj at 7:47 PM on August 16, 2004

They used to publish a fantastic calendar, but my understanding is that they axed it as part of an effort to mitigate their freakshow image. It's an interesting study in museology, as is the Wagner Free Institute of Science (a victorian-era museum whose crumbling tenants repose in antique cabinets above hand-written labels).
posted by maniabug at 7:55 PM on August 16, 2004

I like looking at the things found in people's stomachs. It's fun because they're displayed in large drawers you can open and close.
posted by swift at 8:14 PM on August 16, 2004

No, woj, I believe that bob is thinking of Gunther von Hagens' Bodyworlds exhibition.

Pics of the exhibits here (warning, contains NSFW ads).
posted by deanc at 8:44 PM on August 16, 2004

The Mutter museum is pretty darn gross. Lots of fetuses (fetii?) in jars and whatnot... a must see in Philly.

For whatever it's worth, Terry Gross did an interesting interview with Gretchen Worden, Director of the Mutter Museum.
posted by ph00dz at 9:01 PM on August 16, 2004

I like looking at the things found in people's stomachs.

(My favorite: a small button with the words "PERFECT ATTENDANCE".)
posted by tss at 9:31 PM on August 16, 2004

hurrah! (I'm a big Mutter fan).

(I can't stress this enough: if images of preserved but still wildly decomposed corpses disturb you, DON'T CLICK THESE LINKS.)

No mention of the soap lady is complete without mention of the Smithsonian's shamefully-no-longer-on-display Soap Man, , which I learned more about from the gruesome adipocere website, devoted to the hows, whys and ghaaaks of the process which creates soap mummies.

Here (a link which opens to deeply gruesome images I would not think of as work safe), partway down the page, we learn that he was "William von Ellenbogen, an American Revolutionary War soldier," said to be buried in the same section of the Philadelphia cemetery that the Soap Lady was.
posted by mwhybark at 10:05 PM on August 16, 2004

ohhh, shit, mwhybark. that last link is amazing. they have a CAFEPRESS store that is just breathtaking.
posted by oog at 12:34 AM on August 17, 2004

hmm it was more modern like Gunther von Hagens, but it seemed more the style of Honore Fragonard. probably von hagens though
posted by bob sarabia at 12:34 AM on August 17, 2004

Yeah, Swift/tss, the "Chevalier Jackson Collection" of inhaled and swallowed objects is a favorite of mine too. One of the more subtle things in the museum, but amazing nonethless.
posted by titanshiny at 5:59 AM on August 17, 2004

a must see in Philly

I went many years ago, but I heard it was closed to the public now. Their primary mission is to be a research museum for physicians, and they felt they were getting to many gawkers and their image was becoming more sideshow than respectable collection of medical oddities. Is it open to everybody again?
posted by ChasFile at 6:40 AM on August 17, 2004

If you can't make it to the museum, the book is really interesting. (And also rather amusing to leave out on the coffee table.)
posted by Hypharse at 7:15 AM on August 17, 2004

ChasFile: Their homepage lists hours and admission prices, so I'm pretty sure it's open again. I've visited within the past three years and it was open to the public.
posted by gokart4xmas at 10:12 AM on August 17, 2004

The International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago sounds interesting, if not quite as delightfully gruesome.
posted by Vidiot at 10:18 AM on August 17, 2004

I was there this past November. It is super-amazing and highly recommended.

At one point a flood of medical students (or possibly hospital workers) entered the museum. I was busy looking at the deformed skeleton of a young boy, when one of the students asked me about the skeleton (like I somehow knew more about it than what was written on the display). Then he asked me if I was "writing a paper about this or something." I guess he was thinking "why else would someone look at medical oddities?"

You couldn't possibly get enjoyment out of this sort of thing, right? Or even voluntarily wish to study it. :)
posted by Rattmouth at 12:35 PM on August 17, 2004

Crikey. Some of you folks sound like you'd enjoy this kind of stuff.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 2:23 PM on August 17, 2004

Very sad to hear about Gretchen. She was extremely kind and let me photograph
the Museum when I was in Philly doing a photo exhibit.
posted by ig at 7:51 PM on August 17, 2004

I second the very beautiful Mutter book, BTW. It's based in part on images created for the calendars.
posted by mwhybark at 9:39 PM on August 17, 2004

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