New Morbid Anatomy Museum Opens in Brooklyn (Where Else?)

Brooklyn's new Morbid Anatomy Museum boasts 2,500 books and one human skeleton. Courtesy the Morbid Anatomy Museum.

There’s a new Morbid Anatomy Museum, and, yes, it’s in Brooklyn, reports the New York Times. The museum, which could have raided some of the borough’s many taxidermy-chic restaurants to fill out its collection, opens June 27 in Gowanus.

The museum got its start as the Morbid Anatomy Library, the private collection of founder and creative director Joanna Ebenstein. Her more than 2,000 books, covering a range of topics including medical history, death rituals, and the human body, were until recently located in a 300-square-foot room off the Gowanus Canal.

In its tiny headquarters, the library began holding lectures and salons that attracted artists, writers, curators, and other intellectuals. Other projects included a blog and The Morbid Anatomy Anthology.

The overall mission? Rescuing forgotten but strangely beautiful obscurities, and celebrating “artifacts and ideas which fall between the cracks of high and low culture, art and science, beauty and death,” according to the new museum’s website.

The expanded museum’s quarters measure 4,200 square feet on three floors of what was once a nightclub, with a library, classroom space, gallery for temporary exhibitions, and a cafe and gift shop.

Its inaugural exhibition, “The Art of Mourning,” resurrects old Victorian mourning traditions, featuring now unfamiliar objects such as death masks, decorative hair art, and memorial photographs in an academic museum display setting.

The show draws from three local private collections: Stanley Burns’s Burns Archive of photography in Murry Hill; that of Evan Michelson, owner of the East Village’s Obscura Antiques and Oddities; and Karen Bachmann, an independent jeweler whose materials of choice include human hair and animal bones.

These collectors’ homes are filled with a bizarre assortment of disturbing, vintage surgical and medical photos, antique wax department store mannequins, old bones, taxidermy, and other assorted esoterica that seems more at home in a Renaissance era-wunderkammer than in a modern home.

Ebenstein looks forward to reminding the museum’s visitors about such lost arts, telling the Times “I want people to walk in and say: ‘Wow, this is really interesting. Why don’t we know about that? And what does it say about us today that we don’t know about it?’”

“The Art of Mourning” is on view through December 4 at the new Morbid Academy Museum in Gowanus, Brooklyn, open Wednesday through Monday, from noon to 6 p.m.

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