Emergency Fundraising Can’t Revive Brooklyn’s Quirky Morbid Anatomy Museum

The museum launched in the summer of 2014.

Walter Potter, The Kittens’ Wedding (circa 1890). Courtesy of the Morbid Anatomy Museum.
Walter Potter, The Kittens’ Wedding (circa 1890). Courtesy of the Morbid Anatomy Museum.

Brooklyn’s offbeat Morbid Anatomy Museum—one of artnet News’s “creepiest museums in the world”—is no more. The museum had enjoyed a two-and-a-half year run in Gowanus following its June 2014 debut, but it was unable to galvanize would-be donors in a last-ditch fundraising effort, announced two weeks ago, to generate enough funds to keep the doors open.

Dedicated to celebrating “artifacts and ideas which fall between the cracks of high and low culture, art and science, beauty and death,” according to an official mission statement, the museum grew out of Joanna Ebenstein’s Morbid Anatomy Library, founded in 2008. In addition to lectures and exhibitions on niche subjects such as 19th-century anatomical wax models, the museum held regular taxidermy classes.

“Good press doesn’t pay the rent,” the museum wrote on a crowdfunding website, which had raised just $8,000 of its $75,000 goal in the two weeks since its launch. “With two years of successful programming behind us, we are just becoming eligible for federal and state grant programs, but these funds are increasingly difficult to acquire, even for the most established of museums.”

The Morbid Anatomy Museum. Courtesy of the Morbid Anatomy Museum.

The Morbid Anatomy Museum. Courtesy of the Morbid Anatomy Museum.

Though the museum’s unique blend of death and beauty seems tailor-made for Brooklyn, the appeal was ultimately unsuccessful. “RIP,” wrote the museum on Facebook on December 19, announcing its abrupt closure. The institution paid $10,000 a month in rent and had an annual operating budget of $300,000,

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of competition out there,” museum cofounder and chief executive Tracy Hurley Martin told the New York Times. “We just fell through the cracks.” On Facebook, Martin offered “a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported us in this endeavor,” noting that the museum was “extremely proud of the groundbreaking work we’ve done and the incredible community we were so privileged to serve.”

At the time of its 2014 opening, Brooklyn's Morbid Anatomy Museum boasted 2,500 books and one human skeleton. Courtesy the Morbid Anatomy Museum.

At the time of its 2014 opening, Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum boasted 2,500 books and one human skeleton. Courtesy the Morbid Anatomy Museum.

The institution’s most recent exhibition, “Taxidermy: Art, Science, & Immortality Featuring Walter Potter’s Kittens’ Wedding,” closed December 6, after reportedly being extended due to popular demand. (For those not familiar with his work, Victorian taxidermist Walter Potter created delightfully creepy tableaux of anthropomorphized baby animals.)

Other recent events included a party for Krampus, which the museum described as Santa’s “cloven-hooved, chain-swinging, lolling-tongued, child-punishing Eastern-European sidekick,”

“Its a loss for all of us Seekers of Weirdness out there,” wrote one disappointed fan on Facebook. “Sad day.”


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