Secret photo archives of the Mutter Museum: haunting book of Victorian pathological curiosities

Master archivist Rick Prelinger sez,

Always my first stop in Philadelphia, the Mutter Museum is the Victorian-era medical museum holding thousands of unforgettable (and often unsettling) objects, including anatomical and pathological specimens, models and instruments. While the Mutter demonstrates what 19th-century physicians did NOT know about disease, it also challenges our supposed sophistication about science and medicine and leads us to think about the infinite distance that separates us from the insides of our bodies.

The Mutter also has a historic archive of medical photographs, most of which have never been shown publicly. Now my friends at Blast Books have published a book of 200 images originally taken to illustrate medical and pathological conditions. Combining science and artistry, this is evidence you can't tear your eyes away from. As editor Laura Lindgren says, "Many of these photographs document unusual, sometimes nearly unimaginable, challenges of disorder, disease, and injury. A great many of these photographs are disquieting, yet they are equally moving in their portrayal of how these people endured their fate. A few photographs demonstrate the limited relief that medical science at the time was able to offer and thus show how very far medicine has advanced."

You may find this book disturbing, but you'll never think of your body the same way after looking at these amazing photos.

I've only visited the Mutter once, but it left an indelible mark on my psyche. As Rick says, I've never thought of my body the same way. I have a copy of gorgeous hardcover collection of the exhibits and it remains one of the most inspiring and haunting books on my shelf.


(Thanks, Rick!)

See also:
The Mutter Museum in color photos
Curator of human oddities museum remembered