An Illustrated Guide to the World of the Mutter Museum

The Mutter Museum: Of the College of Physicians of PhiladelphiaThe Mutter Museum: Of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia by Gretchen Worden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I discovered the Mutter Museum in the 1990s because of the lovely morbid calendars my local bookshop sold. The calendars featured amazing, thought-provoking photographs by Joel-Peter Witkin, Rosamond Purcell, and Arne Svenson, taken in the collection of the medical museum. Those incredible photos, in all their glory, are assembled in this book.

Unfortunately, the calendar photos by William Wegman are included, too. The inclusion of the dogs mocking the pose of Chang and Eng’s post-autopsy death masks or stuffing their heads into a pelvis still strikes me as disrespectful to a shocking degree.

The text that captions each photo is full of fascinating information, though: enough so that it makes me want to return to the museum. The essay that introduces the museum could have easily been longer. The essays at the back of the book that detail items in the museum’s collection was far and away my favorite part, even though I love the photographs as well. My only complaint is that the final section wasn’t longer. I want to know about everything the museum owns.

You can order your own copy from Amazon: The Mutter Museum: Of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

The 2013 calendar doesn’t seem to be available yet.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

About Loren Rhoads

I'm co-author of a series about a succubus and her angel. Angelus Rose, the final book, came out in February 2020. I am the editor of Tales for the Camp Fire: An Anthology Benefiting Wildfire Relief. I'm also author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel--and a space opera trilogy.
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2 Responses to An Illustrated Guide to the World of the Mutter Museum

  1. Jayson Jordan says:

    This sounds like a most fascinating book and I should like to procure it at some point. Ever since discovering that there was this Mutter Museum by way of that same program I mentioned before, the ‘Mummies Unwrapped’ series on the TLC, I have long desired to visit it. I completely agree with your sentiments in regard to William Wegman’s vulgar photographs and they in my view trivialise the subjects they mock. My interest in such things has led me to discover my own local medical museum, The Dittrick Medical Museum in Cleveland, Ohio which is located on the campus of Western Reserve University. The odd thing is that most people aren’t aware of its existence, and it is the perfect venue for one to enjoy Obscura Day, which they have thankfully hosted for the past two years. Loren, is there anything special you enjoy of Obscura Day? I would imagine there are a plethora of events that occur in California on Obscura Day. Have you seen the book, ‘Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine 1880-1930’, it is quite lovely and co-authored by the curator of the Dittrick Medical Museum, James M. Edmondson. I highly recommend it if you have not already done so.


    • Loren Rhoads says:

      Thanks for the book recommendation. I haven’t seen that one yet, but I’ll check it out!

      I haven’t had the opportunity to link up with Atlas Obscura in person yet, which is a crime. I’ve been traveling the last two Obscura Days. Next year, I’m going to make it a priority. There’s so much wonderfully morbid stuff in the San Francisco Bay Area that I want to know more about.

      The next time my dad goes down to the Cleveland Clinic, I’ll try to arrange a field trip to the Dittrick Museum.


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