Anatomical Museum

Anatomical Museum (Basel, Switzerland)

The Anatomical Museum (Anatomisches Museum) of the University of Basel dates back to the acquisitional activities of Carl Gustav Jung in the 1820s. As the Collection of Pathology and Anatomy (Pathologisch-Anatomische Sammlung), it moved into its own building in 1880. Two especially significant objects in this collection are the oldest anatomical specimen in the world (prepared by Andreas Vesalius in Basel in 1543) and a skeleton prepared by Felix Platter in 1573.  (Suggested by William Thirteen)

Colma

Colma, California

Real estate has always been heavily in demand in San Francisco.  So much so that the town residents passed an ordinance in 1900 outlawing the construction of any more cemeteries in the city, and then passed another ordinance in 1912 evicting all existing cemeteries from the city limits. The dead were sent off to the necropolis of Colma, south of the city.  With most of Colma’s land dedicated to cemeteries, the population of the dead outnumbers the living by over a thousand to one. This has led to Colma being called “the City of the Silent” and has given rise to a humorous motto, now recorded on the city’s website: “It’s great to be alive in Colma.”   It’s also great to meander the impressive city of the dead and visit some of the great luminaries of early California history.

Here’s a great article about the history of cemeteries in San Francisco. (Thanks to Eleanor for the link.)

Morbid Sightseeing Alert!

When I was dating the girl in DC earlier this year, I made a trip to the National Museum of Crime and Punishment.  Was it a rip-off at $21.95 compared to the great low cost (free!) of the Smithsonian museums?  Certainly it was.  But were there interesting things on display here?  Yes, there certainly are, including Gacy’s Pogo the Clown outfit.  So then isn’t it worth it?  Well, kind of, I suppose.

But the point is: It’s closing at the end of the month!  So, get out there now or wonder if it will ever open anywhere else for the rest of your life!

I’ll hurry up and put out my travelogue this week (if work allows) so that you can see what you’re missing if you choose not to make a trip.

Crime Museum Is Closing At The End of September

(Thanks to Ear for the heads up!)

Pitt Rivers Museum

The Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford, England)Interior2013

If old-fashioned anthropological morbidity is your cup of tea, then the Pitt Rivers Museum is the place for you!  A variety of artifacts from cultures all over the world (think shrunken heads and preserved skulls) in a ridiculously claustrophobic collection of cases (just look at that picture if you don’t believe me).  Have a look at the collection of artifacts photographed by Morbid Anatomy here.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (Orienienburg, Germany)
A Morbid Must-See!

I visited this compelling concentration camp in the former East Germany in the summer of 2014 with a couple of friends who are of the non-morbid persuasion.  I didn’t think they’d be very interested, so I tried to be polite and only allowed a few hours for the visit.  As it turned out, they were every bit as fascinated by this tragic site as I was and we all wished that we’d had a full day to explore.  They have done an incredible job of reconstructing the horror of life and death in the camp via first person accounts and memorabilia, with an especially huge collection of medical history memorabilia.  I highly recommend that if you go, you allot a full day and get there early!

The account of my visit can be read on my Forlorn Photography site:
Nineteen Thirty-Sick!

Wolhusen Mortuary Chapel

Wolhusen Mortuary Chapel (Lucerne, Switzerland)

“If you wander the streets of Lucerne, you’ll doubtlessly cross the Spreuer Bridge at some point. It’s probably one of Switzerland’s most notable series of Totentanz (Dance of Death) paintings with 45 of the original 67 panels still intact. However, 20 kilometers outside the city, in the quiet suburb of Wolhusen, one of the most unique Dance Of Death paintings is housed in an unassuming mortuary chapel. What makes it so special is that there are actual human skulls set into the plaster of the large mural that circles around the ceiling.”  (Thanks to Howard for the tip.)

Sing Sing Prison Museum

Sing Sing Prison Museum (Ossining, New York)

Sing Sing_0409sm

Sing Sing Your Life!
July 19, 2003

Since I had recently read the book Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House I decided that when I visited New York, I had to stop by Sing Sing and see the infamous prison for myself.  I knew that there was a derelict section which comprised the original 1825 prison block, and that was what I most wanted to see.  I also knew that it was inside the prison complex so I probably wouldn’t see much anyway.  But still… I had to pay a visit.

The town of Sing Sing isn’t called Sing Sing anymore – it’s called Ossining.  The boring people who live there changed the name to try and separate themselves from that infamous prison.  Of course, I don’t get that at all.  You’d think they’d want to celebrate their morbid claim to fame?  But then again, I’m “different” from most people.

Anyway, I drove around the prison, which is situated in a lovely location along the bank of the Hudson River, and took a few photographs. I didn’t realize at the time that taking photographs of active prisons is a no-no! I found that out when I got yelled at by a mean man up in a tower. I kinda figured that, you know, all the historic marker signs in the area meant that it was a historic place that we could document, but I guess that was my naivety showing.  In any event, I got a few shots in before he doused my fun with ice cold water just like they used to do to prisoners in the shower baths!

After I finished my abbreviated prison documentation, I drove up to the Ossining Visitor Center (aka the Caputo Community Center), where they have a little exhibit dedicated to the prison.  I have to admit, the exhibit disappointed me. There was a recreation of a modern prison cell, a replica of the infamous electric chair Old Sparky (dammit, I want my electric chair replete with the sizzled blood of the condemned on it!), and some exhibits showing old illustrations and photographs of the torture techniques perfected inside.  Two authentic displays were an iron door from one of the original 1820’s prison cells, and a display of shanks that had been confiscated from prisoners. Truly a study in human ingenuity!

There’s talk these days of turning the power house at Sing Sing into an expanded prison museum, and my fingers are crossed that this comes to fruition because Sing Sing deserves better than this little display.