While in the US, I had the chance to feed my fascination with all things morbid by visiting some extraordinary sites and exhibitions.
In New York, I spent a day visiting the glorious Morbid Anatomy Museum. Founded in 2014 by noted curator and writer Joanna Ebenstein, this hotbed of curiosity was “a showcase for unusual taxidermy, natural history specimens and other objects at the intersection of art, science and beauty.”
(https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/20/arts/morbid-anatomy-museum-closes-brooklyn.html) It featured, among other items, a large collection of the famed Victorian taxidermist, Walter Potter, the so-called “man who married kittens.” It was a fortunately timed experience, as the Museum permanently closed its doors just two months later.
I also visited the fascinating exhibition Securing the Shadow: Postumous Portraiture in America at the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan. This exhibition, which included an installation of postmortem daguerreotypes, was a moving examination of the many ways in which people in 19th century America remembered their dead through images. The range of imagery and the depth of scholarship in the exhibition and its catalogue have helped me further refine my ideas of remembering the dead in artwork, and provides a continuing resource.
The Mutter is one of the world’s leading anatomical museums, and treads the fine line between presenting specimens that have research value and sensational oddities. The sensational aspect is certainly what draws the crowds, but the seriousness of the collection asserts itself.
Eastern State is a semi-ruin and was once one of the most famous prisons in the world. In addition to showing the ruins, they explore the role of prisons and sentencing in contemporary culture and present an arts programme.