Mütter Museum

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The Mütter Museum
College of Physicians 1.JPG
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
Coordinates 39°57′12″N 75°10′36″W / 39.95333°N 75.17667°W / 39.95333; -75.17667Coordinates: 39°57′12″N 75°10′36″W / 39.95333°N 75.17667°W / 39.95333; -75.17667
Type Medical Museum
Collection size 25,000+[1]
Visitors 130,000+
Founder Thomas Dent Mütter, M.D.
Director Anna Dhody
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]


The Mütter Museum is best known for the Hyrtl Skull Collection and other anatomical specimens including a wax model of a woman with a horn growing out of her forehead along with several wax molds of untreated conditions of the head; the tallest skeleton currently on display in North America; a nine-foot-long human colon that contained over 40 pounds of fecal matter when removed from the remains of a man who appeared in a sideshow act called the Human Balloon; and the body of the Soap Lady, whose corpse turned itself into a soapy substance called adipocere better known as grave wax. Many wax models from the early 19th century are on display as are numerous preserved organs and body parts.[3]

The Museum's holdings also include:

Gretchen Worden[edit]

Gretchen Worden (1947–2004)[4] 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,[5] "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"[6] 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"[7] 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."[8]

Other related projects[edit]

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.[9] 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[10] and a Sloan Foundation Fellowship at the 2004 Hampton International Film Festival.[11] 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.[12]

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."[13] 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.[13] 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.[14] 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,[15] Library Journal,[16] School Library Journal[17] and Kirkus Reviews,[18] as well as lengthy positive reviews in the Wall Street Journal,[19] The Onion's AV Club[20] and NPR.[21] The book would debut at #7 on The New York Times Bestseller List for Books about Health.[22]

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. ^ "Exhibitions - The Soap Lady". The Mütter Museum. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "Gretchen Worden". findagrave.com. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  5. ^ "Late Night With David Letterman Season 4 Episode 67". tv.com. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "Gretchen Worden, director of the Mutter Museum". NPR.org. Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  8. ^ Worden, Gretchen (2002). Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia (1st ed.). New York: Blast. ISBN 0922233241. 
  9. ^ "Exhibitions - Hyrtl Skull Collection". The Mütter Museum. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  10. ^ "Non-Fiction works". Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Aptowicz bio on Sloan Foundation-related website
  12. ^ Mütter Short website
  13. ^ a b Kelly Writers House ArtsEdge website
  14. ^ Publishers Weekly: Book Deals of April 15, 2013
  15. ^ Publishers Weekly Review of Dr Mütter's Marvels
  16. ^ Library Journal Review of Dr Mütter's Marvels
  17. ^ School Library Journal Review of Dr Mütter's Marvels
  18. ^ Kirkus Review of Dr Mütter's Marvels
  19. ^ Wall Street Journal Review of Dr Mütter's Marvels
  20. ^ The AV Club Review of Dr Mütter's Marvels
  21. ^ NPR Books Review of Dr Mütter's Marvels
  22. ^ [[The New York Times Bestseller List for Books on Health October 2014]

External links[edit]