BY AMY HABEN
Instead of leaving town this Christmas, I stayed in Brooklyn and had philosophical conversations with my friend Kat over Chinese food. She decided to swing by my home in Williamsburg on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Since we weren’t signing up for a traditional family holiday, I thought we could do something out of the ordinary.
A friend had invited me to Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum last week. He told me there was an interesting exhibit showing numerous vendors selling various animal skeletal remains and specimens. I’m a sucker for oddities, taxidermy, vintage photos, dioramas, religious art, insects in anthropomorphic shadowboxes, and so on. So this museum was right up my alley. It is reminiscent of Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum, except a much smaller version with more animal and less human artifacts.
I had originally missed my first attempt at going to the museum as I thought it was in the East Village since I was told it was located on 3rd Avenue at the corner of 7th Street. Don’t make my mistake, it’s in Brooklyn!
Walking into the museum, I was warmly welcomed by Brandt, the gift shop clerk. He asked us if we wanted to go up to the museum, took our $8, and pointed the way to the stairs.
The first room you enter is filled with whichever exhibition is currently running. Today was “The Art Of Mourning,” a beautifully creepy display of photographs of the deceased from the 18th to 20th century. Also there was mourning paraphernalia, hair art shadowboxes, memorial cards, death masks, and spirit photography, all curated by museum founder, Joanna Ebenstein and Evan Michelson.
The second room is the museum’s library. There are many books on death and related topics that anyone can flip through. There are also jars of animal specimens, odd knickknacks, creepy masks, religious art, and even an art piece which included someone’s lower mandible.
The gift shop is located on the first level and is the only area where you are allowed to take pictures. So everything I’ve posted here is on sale. A perfectly dehydrated wolf face was beautifully displayed in a bell jar on one shelf. (I may have to buy it!) A fun version of a mini ferris wheel holds four excited looking taxidermy chipmunks which rotates when plugged in… and it’s still on the market!
I bought a beautiful onyx ring, a book called The Private Photography of the Third Reich, some Catholic saint bubble stickers, and the official book of the museum called The Morbid Anatomy Anthology. Its edited by founder Joanna Ebenstein and Colin Dickey. Joanna was upstairs working and graciously signed it for me. The museum began in 2008 as the Morbid Anatomy Library in Gowanus, Brooklyn, and it continues to be a refuge for artists, scholars, artisans, and writers of the macabre.
I am so excited about the addition of this museum and their excellent staff to my borrough! The museum and gift shop will be my second home for years to come. I’m sure Brandt and Joanna will get sick of me. Do yourself a favor and visit!
The Morbid Anatomy Museum is located at 424 Third Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Visit their website for upcoming exhibitions and online store at: morbidanatomymuseum.org