Death Salon Mütter Museum (2015)

 For our fifth event, we are delighted to bring Death Salon to one of the greatest pathological museums in the world, The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia. Attendees will hear from some of the most interesting minds working in death while taking advantage of unprecedented access to a gorgeous 19th century medical oddities museum.

Get the full schedule and visitors guide on PDF.

Death Salon: Mütter Museum takes place in the days and evenings of October 5 & 6, 2015, with a small number of tickets available for an extra fee to a VIP Death Ball the evening of  Sunday October 4.  Have a drink or a snack with DS:MM speakers and performers before the festivities begin at this private party (dress code: haute macabre). Special surprises for this party will be announced soon. Death Ball proceeds will benefit the local Wissahickon Hospice.

Here is an at-a-glance list of the talks and performances on October 5 & 6, 2015, more detailed information (including related events on October 4) follows below this list:

Dr. Marianne Hamel (Death Under Glass, medical examiner): Hot Lights, Sharp Steel, Cold Flesh

Alexis Jeffcoat (Chemical Heritage Foundation) & Emma Stern  (Laurel Hill Cemetery director of programs):Putting the Rave in Graveyard: Bringing a Cemetery to Life

Ryan Matthew Cohn (osteologist, TV’s Oddities): Historical Skeletal Preparations

Death Spaces panel featuring: Colin Dickey (author of Afterlives of the Saints and Cranioklepty): Our Illustrious Dead and Bess Lovejoy (author of Rest in Pieces and editor at Smithsonian Magazine): Hart Island: The World’s Biggest Tax-Funded Cemetery

Evi Numen (Mütter Museum Exhibitions Manager, visual artist & photographer): The curious story of One-eyed Joe and the 1867 Anatomy Act

Molly Gleeson (Penn Museum Conservator)Breathing New Life into Old Mummies: Conservation of Egyptian Mummies at the Penn Museum

Dr. Paul Koudounaris (photographer and author of The Empire of Death, Heavenly Bodies, and Memento Mori): Mummie Dearest

Anna Dhody (Mutter Museum Curator), Daniel Kirby (analytical chemist, Harvard Peabody Museum), Richard Hark (Chemistry chair, Juniata College), and Megan Rosenbloom (Death Salon director, USC medical librarian): Skin Deeper: Identifying & Analyzing the World’s Books Bound in Human Skin

Lavinia Jones Wright (The 78 Project): Death Came A-Calling – The Cautions, Confessions and Charisma of Murder Ballads with a musical performance of historic murder ballads

Sarah Troop (Order of the Good Death Executive Director, Nourishing Death, Death & the Maiden): Los Angelitos: The Rituals and Art of Child Death in Mexico

Norma Bowe  (former nurse, professor at Kean University, subject of The Death Class): The Death Class

Elizabeth Harper (All the Saints You Should Know, Order of the Good Death): Preserved in Perpetuity: The Art and Science of Incorrupt Saints

David Orr (artist): Perfect Vessels

Dr. Erin Lockard (doctor at the University of Pennsylvania): Death from the Doctor/Daughter Perspective

Robert Hicks (Mütter Museum Director): Exquisite Corpses: Our Dialog with the Dead in Museums 

Christine Colby (Penthouse Magazine Managing Editor): Dying Trans: Preserving Identity In Death

Sheri Booker (author of Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner City Funeral Home) and Caitlin Doughty (Death Salon co-founder, author of NYT bestseller Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory, creator of Youtube’s Ask A Mortician): Ask a Mortician LIVE 

For full talk and event descriptions, continue further down the page.

We’re excited to announce that for the first time we’ll be featuring 15 (mostly) local artists and artisans whose creations take inspiration from death, handpicked by Death Salon HQ. We’re calling it The Dark Artisans’ Bazaar, and the marketplace will be open exclusively for Death Salon attendees during session breaks. We are considering packing extra suitcases to accommodate all of our scores from The Dark Artisans’ Bazaar. For full details of the vendors included, click the image below.

DSMMDarkArtisansBazaarJPG

Below you will find the full roster of Death Salon: Mütter Museum events and speakers.

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DEATH SALON: MÜTTER MUSEUM

***Lineup subject to change***

SUNDAY OCTOBER 4, 2015

12pm-4pm: Obscura Society Philly: Philadelphia Buried                                       Cost not included in DS:MM ticket $35 Tickets here.                                                                The Obscura Society Philly, in honor of Death Salon: Mütter Museum, presents a walking tour through three historic downtown 18th century cemeteries – St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Cemetery, Old Pine Church Graveyard and Christ Church Burial Ground. At every stop, the tour will meet with docents, historians and cemetery caretakers who will tell the tales of what lies six feet below.

7pm-10pm: Death Ball VIP party Location TBD Have a drink or a snack with DS:MM speakers and performers before the festivities begin at this private party (dress code: haute macabre). Special surprises for this party will be announced soon. To attend this event, you must select the more expensive ticket option. Death Ball proceeds will benefit the local Wissahickon Hospice.

MONDAY OCTOBER 5, 2015

DAY SESSION 

Doors open at 8am, registration, coffee, and exclusive access to the Mütter Museum and Death Salon’s Macabre Market. Day programming begins at 9am and ends at 4pm.

Hot Lights, Sharp Steel, Cold Flesh Depictions of forensic pathologists and medical examiners in popular media tend to focus on convoluted cases, serial killers, and medical examiners that interrogate living suspects. The reality is something quite different and, actually, much more compelling. DR. MARIANNE HAMEL (Death Under Glass, medical examiner) discusses the realities of forensic science in a media-driven age.

Putting the Rave in Graveyard: Bringing a Cemetery to Life How do you go about making a cemetery a place for the living as well as the dead? Though founded in 1836, Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery has found a second life as a place for community, art, history, and curiosity. ALEXIS JEFFCOAT (Chemical Heritage Foundation) and EMMA STERN  (Laurel Hill Cemetery director of programs) give an inside look at how this Victorian cemetery uses everything from concerts to walking tours to fire spinning to truly become itself.

Break 10:30-11am

Historical Skeletal Preparations Throughout the history of anatomical learning, anatomists have applied artistic methods to show the structure of the human body in creative ways. RYAN MATTHEW COHN (osteologist, TV’s Oddities) gives an overview of the history, uses, and progression of anatomical preparations from the earliest models to the current ones prepared by him. These medical preparations have assisted doctors and thrilled curiosity seekers through the years. Featuring a special introduction from JOANNA EBENSTEIN (Morbid Anatomy Museum creative director & founder).

Death Spaces panel A panel discussion, moderated by Death Salon co-founder CAITLIN DOUGHTY, about American death spaces by two Death Salon alum authors: COLIN DICKEY (author of Afterlives of the Saints and Cranioklepty) on Our Illustrious Dead. The battlefields of the American Civil War, strewn out across the country and operated now by the National Park Service, are presented to the public as sites of both commemoration and healing. And yet they are also, according to local legends and folklore, almost universally haunted: ghostly bugle calls still echo, battle scenes get reenacted nightly. To the extent a ghost story can represent a latent anxiety over an injustice not yet avenged (think Hamlet), what might these soldiers’ ghosts be telling us? and BESS LOVEJOY  (author of Rest in Pieces and editor at Smithsonian Magazineon Hart Island: The World’s Biggest Tax-Funded Cemetery. About 1,500 bodies are buried each year on Hart Island, off the edge of the Bronx. This is where corpses go if they spend more than one week unclaimed in New York City’s morgues. Burials on the island of the poor, the stillborn, and those unclaimed for other reasons are soon to number one million, all interred with convict labor in mass graves. Until recently, there was no way to visit the graves, but a class action lawsuit settled in July 2015 has opened the island to the first visits from families. A bill currently before City Council would also transfer jurisdiction over the island from the Corrections Department to the Parks Department, potentially ushering in a cemetery-to-park transformation that’s far from unknown in NYC’s history.

Lunch break on your own, 12-1:30pm

The curious story of One-eyed Joe and the 1867 Anatomy Act The study of medicine is booming in post-Civil War Philadelphia, boosted by the need for new medical approaches to treat the multitudes of the wounded veterans. With rising enrollment in medical colleges, the need for a fresh supply of cadavers for student dissections increases radically. The unclaimed dead of penitentiaries and pauper houses can fulfill only part of that need, and the urgency to procure more cadavers leads to more nefarious means of supply. In 1867, prominent Fellows of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and introduce the Pennsylvania Anatomy Act in an effort to regulate the avenues of cadaver supply. However 30 years later, the problems persist. in this illustrated talk, EVI NUMEN (Mütter Museum exhibitions manager, visual artist & photographer) discusses the struggle to legislate cadaver dissection and ownership through the case of one Joe Frankford, a famed horse-thief who dies at Eastern State Penitentiary in 1896, and becomes involved post-mortem in a scandalous and widely publicized court battle over his remains.

Breathing New Life into Old Mummies: Conservation of Egyptian Mummies at the Penn Museum Is that real? What do mummies smell like? These are just some of the questions heard on a daily basis at the Penn Museum’s open conservation lab, dedicated to the preservation and study of ancient Egyptian human mummies and related funerary objects. Public fascination with mummies has not changed much since Egyptomania began in the late eighteenth century but the way that we view, study, care for, and interpret these mummies has changed dramatically. MOLLY GLEESON (Penn Museum Project Conservator) describes the process of conserving Egyptian mummies, and what it’s like to carry out this work in full public view.

Break 2:30-3pm

Mummie Dearest Perennial Death Salon favorite DR. PAUL KOUDOUNARIS (photographer and author of The Empire of Death, Heavenly Bodies, and Memento Mori) takes a cross-cultural and historical look at mummies within the domestic environment. Loved ones have been preserved and displayed in many cultures, in order to allow the dead to remain member of the social and kinship group, and to allow the living to have access to esteemed personages.

Skin Deeper: Identifying & Analyzing the World’s Books Bound in Human Skin  In this panel discussion, ANNA DHODY  (Mutter Museum Curator) will be joined by her research team members DANIEL KIRBY (analytical chemist, Harvard Peabody Museum), RICHARD HARK (Chemistry chair, Juniata College) and MEGAN ROSENBLOOM (Death Salon director, USC medical librarian) to discuss their joint project to create an authoritative list of alleged examples of anthropodermic bibliopegy – or books bound in human skin – and describe a successful new method to test whether they are really human. This talk will explore the history of these unusual books, the controversies surrounding their inclusion in library and museum collections, and the science being used to separate the truth from the legends.

Day session ends at 4pm.

NIGHT SESSION 

Doors reopen at 6:30pm.

Death Came A-Calling – The Cautions, Confessions and Charisma of Murder Ballads Sensational news stories have defined our times since long before the days of TMZ, and nothing exemplifies our human fascination with high profile crime than the popularity of Murder Ballads. Tracing their roots back to the songs and poems of Europe in the Late Middle Ages and reaching a fever pitch with broadsides in 19th century in America, Murder Ballads are the stories of grisly true crimes set to familiar melodies designed to spread cautionary tales across the land in pre-internet days. LAVINIA JONES WRIGHT (The 78 Project) examines the genre’s history and how it lives on in modern traditions such as Mexico’s sensational narcocorridos and in the current American folk revival, we begin to see patterns emerge and stories repeat themselves.. that the truth is always fluid and our human fascination with gruesome endings runs deep.

Featuring a special musical performance of historical murder ballads by Rosie Guerin (Vandaveer), J. Tom Hnatow (Vandaveer, The Mynabirds) and Justin Craig (Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway).

The musical performance is followed by access to the museum and the opportunity for behind-the-scenes tours of museum areas otherwise inaccessible to the public. The evening ends at 10pm.

Scene photographed in the Mutter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, on June 11, 2009, in Philadelphia, Pa. © 2009 George Widman Photography LLC, Licensed for use by the Mutter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Scene photographed in the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, on June 11, 2009, in Philadelphia, Pa. © 2009 George Widman Photography LLC, Licensed for use by the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia

TUESDAY OCTOBER 6, 2015

DAY SESSION 

Doors open at 8am, registration, coffee, and exclusive access to the Mütter Museum and Death Salon’s Macabre Market. Day programming begins at 9am and ends at 4pm.

Los Angelitos: The Rituals and Art of Child Death in Mexico. In western cultures, the death of a child is too often met with silence. By contrast, the passing of an Angelito, while mournful, was a theatrical display full of funeral games, dances and fireworks. SARAH TROOP (Order of the Good Death Executive Director, Nourishing Death, Death & the Maiden) explores the transformation of the child as the Angelito is dressed in the guise of a saint in preparation for their new role as liaison between mortals and God.

The Death Class Kean University’s Death in Perspective course covers topics such as the physiology of dying, grief, last wills and goodbyes. It has a three year waiting list. Awarding-winning journalist Erika Hayasaki wrote a book about this class and its teacher called The Death Class and NBC optioned the book for a dramatic TV series. NORMA BOWE (former nurse, professor at Kean University, subject of The Death Class) explains why learning about death and facing mortality is ultimately a way to live an inspired life.

Break 10:30-11am

Preserved in Perpetuity: The Art and Science of Incorrupt Saints In this talk ELIZABETH HARPER (All the Saints You Should Know, Order of the Good Death) will share the intimate photos she’s taken of the saints that never seem to decay, including Philadelphia’s own St. John Neumann. She’ll discuss the role of these bodies in the Catholic view of the afterlife, share the latest scientific research on spontaneous preservation, and explain the artistry that goes into their display and preservation.

Perfect Vessels For his series Perfect Vessels, Los Angeles artist DAVID ORR photographs then mirrors a human skull to create perfectly symmetrical results. David will speak about influences for this work (including Memento Mori and the Vanitas traditions in classic art; the use of human skulls as bowls in ancient cultures; symmetry as a cultural signifier of perfection; links to transcendental mysticism) as well as the individual histories of some of the skulls he has photographed from the Hyrtl Collection at the Mütter Museum.

Lunch break on your own, 12-1:30pm

Death from the Doctor/Daughter Perspective Doctors are often surrounded by death, but this year DR. ERIN LOCKARD (Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania) had more than her fair share. In conversation with Death Salon director MEGAN ROSENBLOOM, Dr. Lockard will share her experiences as an early career doctor working in a Geriatric Medicine fellowship while doing battle with her dying mother’s death-denying physicians, and how that experience has shaped her medical practice.

Exquisite Corpses: Our Dialog with the Dead in Museums Images of post mortem human remains are fascinating and disquieting. They amuse children at Halloween and disturb adults when on display at museums. Today’s omnipresent imagery of people doing everything at all times has not accustomed us to depictions of human mortality. The dead are speedily removed from view, and our direct contact with the dead is limited and controlled. Although mortal images can arouse empathy and may develop tolerance for a spectrum of human physical variation, other cultural voices argue for proscription and censure. In this presentation, ROBERT HICKS (Mütter Museum Director) explores our dialogue with post mortem human imagery by examining its relationship to politics and ownership of the dead. The collections of the Mütter Museum form a backdrop to this dialogue and illustrate the contradictory and challenging messages anatomical displays convey to visitors.

Break 2:30-3pm

Dying Trans: Preserving Identity In Death Transgender people need to have extra vigilance in preparing for their deaths, and the death-care industry needs to be prepared to receive them respectfully. Inspired by the case of Jennifer Gable, who died as a transgender woman but was buried as a man by her family, CHRISTINE COLBY (Penthouse Magazine Managing Editorwill feature perspectives from funeral directors and members of the transgender community about how to make sure that one’s identity isn’t erased after death.

Ask a Mortician LIVE Audience members get the opportunity to pepper two mortician/authors with their questions. Featuring SHERI BOOKER (author of Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner City Funeral Home) and CAITLIN DOUGHTY (Death Salon co-founder, author of NYT bestseller Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory, creator of Youtube’s Ask A Mortician). 

Day session ends at 4pm.

NIGHT SESSION 

national mechanics

Open to the public, seats first come first serve. Join us in the beautiful historic building of the bar National Mechanics (22 S. 3rd St.) for the wonderful Philadelphia tradition known as Quizzo, but with a deathy twist. Doors at 7pm, DEATH QUIZZO, hosted by your Death Salon: Mütter Museum curators ANNA DHODY (Mütter Museum Curator), CAITLIN DOUGHTY (mortician, author, Death Salon co-founder), and MEGAN ROSENBLOOM (Death Salon director, medical librarian, Philly native), team up with your fellow Death Salon attendees (or strangers at the bar, do you!) to test your death trivia knowledge for prizes and bragging rights. Quizzo begins at 8pm. Drinks and food available for purchase.

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31 Responses to Death Salon Mütter Museum (2015)

  1. Pingback: Death Salon interview: Sarah Troop | Morbid Is as Morbid Does

  2. Jim Daveler says:

    Hello there i was wondering How much are tickets?

  3. Kathleen Lovell says:

    This sounds like a delight!! I wish I could go. Is it wheelchair accessible ?? Scholarships??

  4. Rieh says:

    The ball sounds amazing, but being the perfectionist I am; what is the general idea of what haute macabre is (like level of dressiness and such)?:)

    • We’ll be sending VIP party details to those who have bought tickets very soon (we’re confirming the musical act) but haute macabre means what you want it to mean…think dark & fancy. The space is small and intimate, it won’t be a huge ball room or anything, more like a cocktail party in a private room at a bar. It’s intimate so people feel empowered to talk to one another. Some people will probably dress up a lot, others less so. There are no real rules though. Does that help?

      • Rieh says:

        Oh good, that’s what I have. I was afraid of going too far; I do dark and fancy very well. I’ll keep an eye on my e-mail too then.

  5. Wendy Fannin says:

    Hi there, I foolishly waited until the morning of the 6th to order my tickets, and found the VIP’s were sold out– I’m so disappointed! Is there any way to find out if some become available?

  6. Malkah says:

    I would so love to go to the events like it would probably be a dream to go but I have school that I can not miss in order for me to even have a chance in the medical field in the future.

    • We understand it’s hard to not have the event on a weekend, but the Mutter is booked years in advance on weekends for weddings so this was the best we could do. Sorry you can’t make it but hopefully you can for a future event!

  7. Anne says:

    I see that there are two events listed at each time. Do we have to choose between them or are they sequential? Can’t wait

    • I’m sorry I don’t understand your question…There is only one program. The event is two days long, is that the confusion? MR

      • Anne says:

        Sorry I wasn’t clear. I want to know if its possible to attend all of the sessions listed or if you have to choose between two for each time slot. For example, Tuesday morning session lists Los Angelitos and the Death Class – are they held simultaneously or sequentially? Hope that’s more clear

      • Yes I get it now, thanks! They are sequential you won’t miss anything ☺

  8. Sharon says:

    I’m new to this and very excited…just wondering if it’s expected that most people will attend all the offerings or if it’s ok to pick and choose throughout the day. Not sure how its

    • Usually people do go to all the talks and events, we schedule breaks in between to make it easier to handle that, but of course you can do what you want with the ticket you have. You will have a badge and can come in and out as you wish.

  9. Neddy says:

    Just heard you on TalkNerdy! Wow sounds like such a great event- wishing it was on the weekend for me to be able to attend. Good luck ! Enjoyed the discussion you had on the podcast.

  10. Carlos Aguirre says:

    Can’t find the prices for the event.

  11. Jenna Kellen says:

    Just bought my ticket. So excited to come meet and learn from some of my favorite death advocates! Thanks to everyone making this happen.

  12. Erin Blewett says:

    I am confused as to how to buy tickets for Monday, it is only showing me the tickets for the Sunday night event.

    • The tickets are for Monday & Tuesday and only cover both days, there are no single day tickets. Don’t worry about the Sunday date, that is just for the entire event as there used to be a ticket type that included a Sunday event but those are sold out. I hope that makes sense.

  13. Sunny says:

    Does this mean the museum is closed to the general public on the 5th and 6th? I’m unable to attend the full conference but was hoping to finally get to visit the museum on my first visit to Philly…

  14. bzanelli says:

    Hello, I was wondering if there are tickets left on Tuesday, would it be possible to buy just a one day pass for $75? I cannot afford $150. Thank you.

  15. Pingback: Death Salon: Mutter Museum | In the Artifact Lab

  16. Pingback: Death Salon Mutter Museum & Beyond | Death Salon

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