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Mutter Museum: Historic Medical Photographs - Blast Books Print E-mail
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Written by Jay Creepy   
Friday, 20 April 2018
Creepy's Retro Bookshelf Corner: Mutter Museum: Historic Medical Photographs on Severed Cinema CREEPY'S RETRO BOOKSHELF CORNER

Book: Mutter Museum: Historic Medical Photographs
Edited by: Laura Lindgren
Written by: Laura Lindgren, Gretchen Worden
Art by: Laura Lindgren
Year: 2007

Published by: Blast Books


It's human nature to stare at the wreckage of a car as the dying fades deep inside. We wish we could help, but we are powerless so we watch and observe all the moments. Such is the case with unfortunate victims of diseases or socially unkind deformities. Freak shows are a thing of history regardless of whether the players truly felt exploited as they counted their moneys after a hard show.

For some, it's fascination to stare at very old photos of men, women, and children, as that eerie feeling washes over their mind that all of these people, regardless of their age on the record from the past, are dead. How brief life is. But a moment in time.

Did a patient who sat with their terrible ailment or missing limb, as the professional photographer readied and proceeded to enter the subject into the annals of medical history, actually consider the way out idea that somebody over one hundred years later, would be looking at their face, or their twisted torso? Hows-about the mother of the deceased but incredibly beautiful -- in a shocking way -- baby born so different and dying so fast, how did she feel? Did she wonder about the future? The baby is captured and made eternal, originally for medical journals and students, but now for the curious audience.

Such is the amazing and digress contents within Mutter Museum: Historic Medical Photographs, this 224 page hard back volume. Carefully selected and collected by the author, with help via the curator of Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum, we thus have soldiers sporting dreadful wounds, we have illnesses, tumours, amputations, men and women who would be considered 'freaks,' and pictures of some treatments used. It is not for the closed mind, nor the squeamish, Mutter Museum is educational and saddening at the same time.

Two excellent introductions, one by the author, the other by the late Gretchen Worden, explain the whys and a gentle holding of the hand before leading you into the forest of broken beings. The photographs have been donated over the museums history by endless doctors and scholars, and some show interesting 'before' and 'after' treatment shots; “for those individuals, at least something was done to help.” What we do have is a page or two explaining in depth the history and building blocks leading to medical photography, and the different forms used which is a marvellous read in itself.

Patient, S.G., in 1868 had a rather unfortunate head versus rail carriage collision. Since regaining consciousness he was reporting a roaring sound in his eye per pulse. Poor guy, and his treatment achieved nothing. Meanwhile, another chap, named as McKnight, had both legs and one arm crushed below a rail road car in 1865. Jesus, working on the rails was taking your life for granted. McKnight survived a successful triple amputation – photograph included.

There's a brief but interesting section on giants. The skeleton of one, 7ft 6”, and a classic group photo featuring, Henry McMullins, at 7ft 7” tall. Henry could dance and perform comedy.

Gangrene, polio, rickets, elephantiasis, mental illness, sarcoma, plus jaw-dropping pages of babies born without spines or tops of their craniums, and also looking like lizards, it's an exhibition which doesn't have a dull moment. The fact that  there is a ton of information against every subject and this adds such value to the book.

The quality of the publication is top-notch. The paper feels good, and the bindings will hold out against time, so your future generations can dig out Great Grandpa's or Great Grandma's “weird ol' book” a hundred years from now.

For anyone with a deep or passing interest in medical curiosities, Mutter Museum: Historic Medical Photographs is sublime and could be one of the best on the market.



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