This beautiful object is a corrosion cast of bronchi and trachea, c. 1880-1890, most likely from a rabbit, sheep, or dog. It's part of the new Body of Knowledge exhibition at the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture.
Corrosion casts have been part of anatomical teaching from the 17th century to the present, particularly for creating display specimens. A rapidly hardening substance, often metal or plastic, is injected into blood spaces or other cavities. Then the tissue is dissolved away by strong acids or bases. This cast was created using a mixture of bismuth, lead, tin, and cadmium. After injection, the tissue was dissolved in potassium hydroxide.
Body of Knowledge: A History of Anatomy (in 3 Parts)
Chandre Oraon, of West Bengal, has a slew of worshippers because he reportedly was born with a tail. According to News.com.au, his followers think Oraon may be the Hindi god Hanuman, a monkey-like humanoid. His tail looks suspiciously like hair to me, but what do I know. After all, it's rare but not unheard of for humans to be born with a "true tail."
For nine years the popular website Futility Closet has collected arresting curiosities in history, literature, language, art, philosophy, and mathematics. This book presents the best of them: pipe-smoking robots, clairvoyant pennies, zoo jailbreaks, literary cannibals, corned beef in space, revolving squirrels, disappearing Scottish lighthouse keepers, reincarnated pussycats, dueling Churchills, horse spectacles, onrushing molasses, and hundreds more. Plus the obscure words, odd inventions, puzzles and paradoxes that have made the website a quirky favorite with millions of readers -- hundreds of examples of the marvelous, the diverting, and the strange, now in a portable format to occupy your idle hours.
Here's my interview with Greg about his new book and his new career as a full-time curator of curiosities.
Buy a copy of the Futility Closet book on Amazon.
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David Charles, 21, was arrested for allegedly stealing jars of brain tissue from the Indiana Medical History Museum. Police tracked Charles down after a California fellow purchased the jars for $100 each on eBay. Museum director Mary Ellen Hennessey Nottage spoke to the man who bought the brains. "He just said he liked to collect odd things," Nottage said.
"Police: Man stole brains, sold them on eBay" (Indianapolis Star)
This is a rarely-seen "pink fairy" armadillo that lives in western central Argentina. Chlamyphorus truncatus, the tiniest armadillo species on the planet, spends almost all of its time underground, making it hard for researchers to determine whether it's endangered or just very elusive. Scientists at Mendoza, Argentina's CONICET research center recently had the opportunity to study one in captivity and discovered that the animal doesn't "swim" through sand as previously suspected but rather "digs and then it backs up and compacts the sand with its butt plate.” (Science News)
Morbid Anatomy's Joanna Ebenstein just edited a new book by Dr. Pat Morris about English taxidermist Walter Potter (1835-1918) whose creations are icons of Victorian wunderkammer whimsy. Here's a trailer for the related documentary, a collaboration with Ronni Thomas of The Midnight Archive. Walter Potter's Curious World of Taxidermy
The always-excellent Midnight Archive visits artist and Oddities host Ryan Matthew Cohn and his massive collection of skulls, shrunken heads, and other curiosities.
Hidden inside a nondescript freight elevator in a NYC TriBeCa alley lies Museum, a delightful cabinet-of-curiosities drawing from weird collections around the globe. Museum is now open for its second season and includes such items as: "Personal Ephemera from Al Goldstein, The Rocks and Tools from Tom Sach's Mars expedition, Objects Made For Prisoners or by Prisoners in US Prisons, Fake Vomit from Around the World, Tip Jars collected by Jim Walrod, Surf and Turf Potato Chips, and more."
Invisible Brooklyn, sellers of fine curiosities and devilish artifacts, just posted two terrific tomes from the early 1900s to Instagram. I think both would best be enjoyed accompanied by a puff on the antique skull pipe, while wearing a smoking jacket. Red, of course.
According to the Science Museum, London, this item from Henry Wellcome's curiosity collection is a "man catcher… used in Europe in the late 1700s during times of war. The terrifying collar pulled riders off horseback. In peacetime, it is thought the device may have caught and held escaped prisoners." "Man catcher, Germany, 1601-1800" (via Neatorama)
Earlier this week, I challenged readers to send me photos of their favorite museum exhibits and specimens, preferably from museums that might go overlooked in the tourism pantheon. Over the next few days, I'll be posting some of these submissions, under the heading, "My Favorite Museum Exhibit". Want to see them all? Check the "Previously" links at the bottom of this post.
It's "My Favorite Museum Exhibit"—celebrity edition. Marc Abrahams is the editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, the journal that awards the annual Ig-Nobel Prizes. He sent me this: An actual rectum cut from the corpse of the Bishop of Durham. It resides in London's Hunterian Museum.
Here's the museum's description of Object RCSHC/P 192, as quoted by Abrahams in a 2010 Guardian column:
A rectum showing the effects of both haemorrhoids and bowel cancer. The patient in this case was Thomas Thurlow (1737-1791), the Bishop of Durham. Thurlow had suffered from some time from a bowel complaint, which he initially thought was the result of piles. He consulted John Hunter after a number of other physicians and surgeons had failed to provide him with a satisfactory diagnosis. Hunter successfully identified the tumour through rectal examination, but recognised that it was incurable. Thurlow died 10 months later.
Previously in this series:
My Favorite Museum Exhibit: Arab Courier Attacked by Lions