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2003
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The Mütter Museum

Posted on Wednesday, October 8, 2014

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Be prepared to be disturbingly informed…
 

The History

Perhaps the greatest part of visiting Philadelphia is how unique the city is. By virtue of being a significant American city for centuries, where so many important events have taken place and so many important people have lived, there are things to see in Philadelphia that you simply can’t see anywhere else.  So while any city you travel to has a history, few have one that rivals Philadelphia’s role as the birthplace of America.  And while most cities have museums… only Philadelphia has anything like the Mütter Museum.
 
The Mütter Museum
 
In 1858, Philadelphia Physician Thomas Mütter donated his personal collection of bones, plaster casts, medical illustrations and other pathological artifacts to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.  His gift of specimens along with $30,000 was meant to create a museum for the purpose of medical research and education.  The museum opened a few years later in 1863 and since its opening the collection has continued to grow and grow.  Today the museum is home to over 25,000 items!
 
The Mutter Museum, Disturbingly Informative
 
The Mutter Museum's vast collection of medical oddities includes a wax cast of a woman with a horn growing out of her head, the tallest skeleton on display in America (7’6”), and the death cast of Chang and Eng, the original “Siamese Twins,” whose autopsy was performed in the museum.  With such bizarre and interesting exhibits the Museum began to arouse curiosity outside of the medical world.  Today the museum is visited by over 60,000 people annually, most of whom are not involved in medical research.
 

What to See

With tens of thousands of items, the vastness of the collection can be a lot to take in.  Perhaps the most interesting items are those that were once a part of some very famous individuals.  Prominent former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall has his bladder stones on display.  Fans of President Grover Cleveland can come and check out a malignant tumor that was removed from his hard plate.  You can even take a look at the pieces of the brain of none other than Albert Einstein himself!
 
The Mütter Museum
 
The Mütter Museum doesn’t just have the body parts of patriots and heroes however; some of America’s greatest villains also have a presence within the museum.  Abraham Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth has a piece of tissue from his thorax on display within the Museum.  Meanwhile another presidential assassin, Charles J. Guiteau, who assassinated President James A. Garfield has a section of his brain on display. 
 
The creepy Mütter Museum should especially appeal to guests of our Spirits of '76 Ghost Tour.  Our nightime haunted history tour is "one part history, two parts haunt" and reveals the terrifying details behind some of Philadelphia's most important historic sites, houses, and graveyards.  Dr. Physick who has contributed to the collection of the Mütter Museum has his own stop on the tour where guests will see his house and hear the tale of "Spine-tingling Surgeries!"
 
The Mütter Museum
 

Insider Tips

When visiting the Mütter Museum, you should prepare to feel a tug on your heartstrings.  All of these specimens came from actual people, many who suffered from rare diseases too horrible to even imagine.  At the Mütter Museum you can see the skeleton of Harry Raymond Eastlack an individual who suffered from a rare disease called fibrodysplasia ossificans progressive, a terrible disease where the body begins to turn muscles and tendons into bone matter.  By the time he died at age 39, the disease had fused his entire body in bone making him a prisoner within his own body.
 
Gretchen Wordern, a former director of the museum perhaps summed it up best, stating “While these bodies may be ugly, there is a terrifying beauty in the spirits of those forced to endure these afflictions.”  One thing is certain; a visit to the Mütter Museum is a uniquely Philadelphian experience like no other.
 

How to Get There

Located on 22nd Street in between Market and Chestnut Street the Mütter Museum is easily accessible.  Guests of The Constitutional Walking Tour can take a nice walk to the museum, starting at the National Constitutional Center where our tours both begin and end; guests should travel West on Arch Street and make a left on 22nd Street to reach the Museum.
 
The Mütter Museum is also within an easy 10 minute walk from 30th Street station which has subway, trolley, regional rail, and even Amtrak accessibility.  Those who plan on driving can find metered on street parking within the vicinity of the museum as well as a few nearby parking garages including one on 21st street directly behind the museum.
 

Hours

Mon – Sun 10am – 5pm
(Note: these hours are subject to change, and you may want to contact the Mütter Museum to confirm)
 

Additional Information

19 South 22nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
215.563.3737
 

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