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Mütter Museum

The Mütter Museum
The College of Physicians, the location of the museum
Established 1863 (1863) (original location)
1909 (1909) (present location)
Location 19 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia, PA
Type Medical Museum
Collection size 25,000+[1]
Visitors 130,000+
Founder Thomas Dent Mütter, M.D.
Director Robert Hicks, Ph.D.
President George Wohlreich, M.D. (CEO of The College of Philadelphia)
Curator Anna Dhody
Owner The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Public transit access SEPTA Green Line
SEPTA Suburban Station
AMTRAK's 30th St. Station
Nearest parking On-Street metered parking, Parking Garage at S. 21st St.
Website The Mütter Museum

The Mütter Museum is a medical museum located in the Center City area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It contains a collection of medical oddities, anatomical and pathological specimens, wax models, and antique medical equipment. The museum is part of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The original purpose of the collection, donated by Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter in 1858, was for biomedical research and education.[2]


  • Collections 1
  • Osteological (Skeletal) Specimens 2
  • Wet Specimens 3
  • Wax Models 4
  • Other Specimens 5
  • Einstein's Brain 6
  • Exhibitions 7
  • Gretchen Worden 8
  • Other related projects 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


The Mütter Museum originated as a collection of specimens and medical tools used for education in medicine. Now the Museum boasts a collection of over 20,000 specimens, of which about 13% are on display. This does not include the large literary collection contained within the Historical Medical Library, which is also housed within the The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Osteological (Skeletal) Specimens

The Mütter Museum is home to over 3,000 osteological specimens, including several full skeletons. One of the most famous of these is the fully articulated skeleton of Harry Raymond Eastlack, who suffered from FOP. Eastlack donated his skeleton to the Mütter collection to assist in further medical understanding of the condition.

Other osteological specimens include:

  • The Mütter American Giant, the tallest skeleton on exhibit in North America, at 7’6” tall.
  • The Hyrtl Skull Collection, a collection of 139 skulls from Joseph Hyrtl, a Viennese anatomist. This collection’s original purpose was to show the diversity of cranial anatomy in Europeans.

Wet Specimens

The Mütter Collection comprises almost 1,500 wet specimens acquired between the 19th Century and recent years. These include teratological, cysts, tumors and other pathology from every part of the body.

Wax Models

Augmenting the real human specimens on display are numerous wax models displaying various examples of pathology in the human body. These models, mostly produced by Tramond of Paris and Joseph Towne of London, were used for training in lieu of real human remains.

Other Specimens

The Museum's holdings also include:

Einstein's Brain

The Mütter Museum is currently the only place where members of the public can view slides of Albert Einstein’s brain.


Many of the Museum’s collections comprise a permanent exhibition. The museum also hosts thematic exhibitions:

A Stitch in Spine Saves Nine An exhibition demonstrating the development of spinal medicine and surgery, curated by Joel D. Rudewicz, MA.

Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits: Injury, Death, and Healing in Civil War Philadelphia This large exhibit examines the history of medicine through the Civil War, and specifically how the conflict contributed to improvements in medical science in North East USA. It was curated with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, and the Groff Family Memorial Trust. It displays a vast collection of Civil War era tools and instruments, contextualized via historical documents from the Medical History Library. Other artifacts include a USCT Muster Roll, recording soldier’s military histories, health and death.

This exhibition is accompanied by lesson plans, and a nine-part documentary mini-series about the Civil War experience in Philadelphia, hosted by the Museum’s Director, Dr. Robert Hicks.

Dr. Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden Dr Rush help found the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1787, which is now home to the Mütter Museum. Dr. Rush pushed for the maintenance of a medicinal garden to allow College Fellows to replenish items in their medicinal chests. The Garden was eventually founded in 1937. It currently displays between 50-60 medicinal herbs and plants, and is accompanied by an audio-tour for visitors to learn more about the original medicinal properties and uses of the botanical specimens, which include strawberries, wormwort, and bugleweed.

Special Exhibitions The Museum is also host to a variety of changing special exhibits. Currently on display:

  • Vesalius on the Verge: The Book and the Body, celebrating the 500th birthday of the famous anatomist.
  • Grimm’s Anatomy, including rare illustrations from the Brothers Grimm.
  • A bi-annual art exhibition in the Museum’s art space, Thomson Gallery. These art exhibits invite established artists to complement the themes of the Mütter Collection, presenting medicine as both a science and an art. Currently on display is Philadelphia Neuroscience-Artist Greg Dunn’s collection of neuron paintings and etchings.

Gretchen Worden

Gretchen Worden (1947–2004)[3] remains perhaps the best known person associated with the Mütter Museum. She joined the museum staff as a curatorial assistant in 1975, became the museum's curator in 1982 and its director in 1988.

Worden was a frequent guest on the Late Show with David Letterman,[4] "displaying a mischievous glee as she frightened him with human hairballs and wicked-looking Victorian surgical tools, only to disarm him with her antic laugh"[5] and appeared in numerous PBS, BBC and cable television documentaries (including an episode of Errol Morris' show First Person) as well as NPR's "Fresh Air with Terry Gross"[6] on the museum's behalf. She was also instrumental in the creation of numerous Mütter Museum projects, including the popular Mütter Museum calendars and the book, The Mütter Museum: Of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. During Worden's tenure, the visitorship of the museum grew from several hundred visitors each year to, at the time of her death, more than 60,000 tourists annually.

After her death, the Mütter Museum opened a gallery in her memory. In an article written about the gallery's September 30, 2005 opening, the New York Times described the "Gretchen Worden Room":

Although Worden was known for using humor and shock factor to garner interest in the museum, she nonetheless was respectful of museum's artifacts. In the foreword of The Mütter Museum: Of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, she wrote "While these bodies may be ugly, there is a terrifying beauty in the spirits of those forced to endure these afflictions."[7]

Other related projects

Blast Books has published two large books of photography involving the Mütter Museum.

The first book, 2002's The Mütter Museum: Of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, contains images of the museum's exhibits shot by contemporary fine art photographers. Included in the book are photographs of "an early-19th-century Parisian widow with a six-inch (152 mm) horn protruding from the forehead; the connected livers of Chang and Eng, the world-famous Siamese twins; the skeleton of a 7-foot, 6-inch giant from Kentucky; and a collection of 139 skulls showing anatomic variation among ethnic groups in central and eastern Europe" among others.[8] William Wegman, Joel-Peter Witkin and Shelby Lee Adams have work that appear in the book.

The second book, 2007's Mütter Museum Historic Medical Photographs, focuses on the museum's archive of "rare historic photographs, most of which have never been seen by the public." Photographs ranging "from Civil War photographs showing injury and recovery, to the ravages of diseases not yet conquered in the 19th century, to pathological anomalies, to psychological disorders" are showcased.

Mütter, a screenplay based on the life of Mütter Museum founder Thomas Dent Mütter, won the 2003 "Set In Philadelphia" Screenwriting Award at the Philadelphia Film Festival[9] and a Sloan Foundation Fellowship at the 2004 Hampton International Film Festival.[10] The screenplay, written by poet and Philadelphia native Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, remains unproduced, although a short based on the feature-length script was created as a part of the Philadelphia Film Festival prize package.[11]

In 2010, Aptowicz was named the 2010-2011 University of Pennsylvania ArtsEdge Writer-in-Residence and she noted that she will be using the residency to work on "a non-fiction book about the life and times of Thomas Dent Mutter."[12] The Museum has granted Aptowicz full access to their museum, library and archives for the duration of the residency so that she may conduct her research for the book, and the Mütter Museum's Francis C. Wood Institute for the History of Medicine has additionally awarded Aptowicz with a Wood Institute Travel Grant to help further fund and support her work on this project.[12] In April 2013, it was announced that Aptowicz's biography of Mütter will be published in Fall 2014 by the Gotham Books division of Penguin.[13] On September 4, 2014, Dr. Mütter's Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine was released to critical acclaim, including starred reviews in Publishers Weekly,[14] Library Journal,[15] School Library Journal[16] and Kirkus Reviews,[17] as well as lengthy positive reviews in the Wall Street Journal,[18] The Onion's AV Club[19] and NPR.[20] The book would debut at #7 on The New York Times Bestseller List for Books about Health.[21]

In 2001 the band Murder City Devils released a song titled "Midnight Service at the Mutter Museum" on their Thelema EP.


  1. ^ "FAQ". The Mütter Museum. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  2. ^ "The Mütter Museum". The Mütter Museum. The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  3. ^ "Gretchen Worden". Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "Late Night With David Letterman Season 4 Episode 67". CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Strausbaugh, John (11 October 2005). "A Curator's Tastes Were All Too Human". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 16 January 2011. 
  6. ^ "Gretchen Worden, director of the Mutter Museum". Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  7. ^ Worden, Gretchen (2002). Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia (1st ed.). New York: Blast.  
  8. ^ "Exhibitions - Hyrtl Skull Collection". The Mütter Museum. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  9. ^ "Non-Fiction works". Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  10. ^ Aptowicz bio on Sloan Foundation-related website
  11. ^ Short websiteMütter
  12. ^ a b Kelly Writers House ArtsEdge website
  13. ^ Publishers Weekly: Book Deals of April 15, 2013
  14. ^ Dr Mütter's Marvels Review of Publishers Weekly
  15. ^ Dr Mütter's Marvels Review of Library Journal
  16. ^ Dr Mütter's Marvels Review of School Library Journal
  17. ^ Dr Mütter's Marvels Review of Kirkus
  18. ^ Dr Mütter's Marvels Review of Wall Street Journal
  19. ^ Dr Mütter's Marvels Review of The AV Club
  20. ^ Dr Mütter's MarvelsNPR Books Review of
  21. ^ [[The New York Times Bestseller List for Books on Health October 2014]

External links

  • : Short film based on the life of Mütter Museum founder, filmed at Mütter Museum as part of 2003 Philadelphia Film FestivalMütter
  • James G. Mundie's drawings and photographs from The Mütter Museum
  • A Discourse Commemorative of the Late Professor T.D. Mütter, M.D., LL.D. from 1859
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