Save Our Skulls: The Mütter Museum’s unique call to alms

We came across this wonderful initiative by the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia and had to share it with you. A part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia the Mütter Museum is a specialty museum dedicated to medical history. The collection of antique medical instruments, anatomical specimens, including human bodies and oddities, and wax models began in 1858 with a major donation by Dr Thomas Dent Mütter to further education in medicine.


The Hyrtl collection. Image: The Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

The museum is home to the Hyrtl skull collection. Josef Hyrtl (1810-1894) was a highly successful and internationally acclaimed Austrian anatomist. His collection of skulls was used for his own research and teachings, including amassing data to debunk the popular 19th century science of Phrenology. However, this amazing collection of skulls is under threat…from vibration! The Mütter Museum need to conserve each skull and remount them on vibration absorbing mounts to prevent future damage by the vibrations of visitors walking past them. This is where the Save our Skulls campaign comes in.

So for US$200 you could adopt (for a 12 month period) the cranium of Domenico Vanello, the 50 year old Austrian man who died in Venice of ascites (no, we didn’t know what that was either – so you see the collection is still teaching people today!); or the Swiss 48 year old Mason Soligo Domenico who died in Vienna in 1872 from diptheria; or the poor young Franz Braun who at 13 years of age committed suicide by hanging after his crime of theft had been discovered. There are a few lady craniums available for adoption still as well, like the lovely Eva Radie, the Catholic maidservant from Croatia who sadly died of unknown causes at the young age of 21.

We are saving our pennies to adopt one on behalf of MOLAM, so we’ll be sure to post a photo of it when we do.

Go on, we know you want to see your name officially mounted next to a human skull sitting in a curious museum with a German name; do your bit for history and help conserve this important collection.