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Biomedicine in museums

Post mortem human remains revisited

By December 10, 2009No Comments

Today (Nobel Day!), Thursday 10 December at 8pm, Obervatory/Morbid Anatomy in New York hosts a talk by Mütter Museum‘s new director Robert Hicks, titled “Exquisite Corpses: Illustrated Lecture & Artifacts from the Mütter Museum”. I guess it’s too late now to get on the morning flight (unless you borrow Air Force One which stands idle on the ground in Oslo today), but the abstract might be interesting to read anyway — not least for museums that are planning to rearrange their anatomical collection (as we are):

Images of post mortem human remains are fascinating and disquieting. They amuse children at Halloween and disturb adults when on display at museums. Today’s omnipresent imagery of people doing everything at all times has not accustomed us to depictions of human mortality. The dead are speedily removed from view, and our direct contact with the dead is limited and controlled. Although mortal images can arouse empathy and may develop tolerance for a spectrum of human physical variation, other cultural voices argue for proscription and censure. In this presentation, Robert Hicks, director of the Mütter Museum explores our dialogue with post mortem human imagery by examining its relationship to politics and ownership of the dead. He incorporates perspectives drawn from anthropology, art criticism, history, museum curatorship, and criminal justice.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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