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7 unusual medical museums

By: Matt Hickman on Oct. 14, 2011, 9 a.m.
Hyrtl Skull Wall at Mütter Museum

Photo: George Widman, 2009/Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

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Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Location: Philadelphia

Specialty: Human pathology (think: preserved body parts, anatomical wax models, antique medical instruments and skulls galore)

Gift shop grotesquerie: Conjoined Gingerbread Men Cookie Cutter

Livers and tumors and 9-foot-long human colons! Oh my! Strong-stomached locals and nontraditional tourists looking to detour from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall have long flocked to Philadelphia’s “disturbingly informative” Mütter Museum to marvel at the institution’s mind-boggling collection of medical curiosities including the liver of famous conjoined twins Chang and Eng, the thorax of John Wilkes Booth, the Hyrtl Skull Wall (pictured) and more than just a couple deformed stillborn fetuses in jars and foreign objects removed from people’s throats. Decidedly not for the faint of heart, young children or those with sensitive gag reflexes and bellies full of Philly cheesesteak, the Mütter Museum is more stately medical library than macabre sideshow attraction, so it is best to leave your guffaws and giggles at home and be prepared for some respectful gawking … the corpse of the “Soap Lady” would most appreciate it.