When in Philadelphia, don't miss the "disturbingly informative" Mütter Museum

One of my most memorable museum visits was to the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia. I remember staring in shock and fascination at an eight-foot-long "mega colon" that had belonged to a man who suffered from Hirschprung's Disease and who had died of severe constipation. The colon, at the time of the man's death, contained 40 pounds of feces. The colon (along with photographs of the man and descriptions of the man's condition), is one of hundreds of similarly jarring displays at the museum, a collection that functions, as Colette Copeland argues, as a "dark tourist site—a site associated with death, disaster, and/or suffering."

As part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the Mütter Museum was once used to teach doctors about treating diseases and human anatomical anomalies. The museum's website notes, "America's finest museum of medical history, the Mütter displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a 19th century 'cabinet museum' setting."

Its current educational mission is to "help the public understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and to appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease." The museum's tagline explains that the collection is "disturbingly informative."