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The Mütter Museum


When The Mütter Museum developed the catch phrase “disturbingly informative” to describe its collection, it could not have been more on point. While the mission and original intent of the museum were not to become one of the world’s most bizarre places, it certainly has gained that reputation. Quirky, slightly eccentric and 100% unique, the Mütter Museum boasts some of the world’s strangest medical oddities, making it an exceptional, stimulating experience. But be forewarned: the contents inside the museum are not for everyone.    Mutter Museum

Once a surgery professor’s (Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter) personal collection, the museum now has 20,000 plus objects including fluid-preserved and dried anatomical specimens, archaic-looking medical instruments, anatomical models and preserved pathological specimens. If you’re scratching your head as to what any of that may look like, try to picture the world’s largest colon or a lady that decomposed into soap. Maybe a plaster cast of conjoined twins or a collection of over 2,000 objects removed from people’s throats is easier for you to imagine. Want to see a cancerous growth removed from President Grover Cleveland? Or a collection of shrunken heads from South America?

Why such a collection? Back in the mid-1800’s, the museum was a center for doctors to learn more about anatomy and medical anomalies — sort of the show-and-tell method of learning. Still part of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the Mütter Museum maintains their mission to “advance the cause of health, and uphold the ideals and heritage of medicine.” The museum, as expected, concentrates on the latter part of the mission, preserving the heritage of medical practices and demonstrating how far the medical field has come scientifically and ethically.

This summer The Mütter Museum is changing some of its most popular exhibits. A marvelous 19th century research specimen studied by Philadelphia’s favorite gentleman scientist, Dr. Joseph Leidy, is the remains of a woman who mysteriously decomposed into soap. The aptly nicknamed “Soap Lady” was reported by Dr. Leidy to have died of Yellow Fever and been buried at 4th and Arch in 1793. Recent research has proven that victims of the Yellow Fever epidemic were not buried at 4th and Arch until a year later than Dr. Leidy thought. And x-rays show that her age was significantly younger –perhaps a decade or more—than Dr. Leidy estimated. So WHEN did the Soap Lady die? And how? The Mütter Museum aims to answer these questions, and more, as this summer’s “Soap Opera” continues.

Mutter Museum PiecesAnother exciting exhibit coming to The Mütter Museum this summer is a forensic approach to Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. In honor of the bicentennial of his birth, this exhibit will examine Lincoln’s death and if modern medicine could have prevented it.

Within walking distance of the Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences and Rittenhouse Square, The Mütter Museum makes for a great summer outing. Estimate about an hour to go through the exhibits. There is a fair amount of text available to read if you want to know more about a specific exhibit. If you’re the type of person who reads all of the text panels, you’ll want to allot closer to 1.5 or 2 hours.


What you need to know:

The Mütter Museum is located at 19 South 22nd Street.

215-563-3737 ext 211.

Hours of operation are 10 to 5 seven days a week.

There is a $2 off coupon available at their website for visits on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays (valid til the end of 2009).