“A list of botanicals sometimes sounds like an incantation: Mandrake. Monkshood. Henbane and Hemlock. Imbibed, these particular plants will do you in, but printed on Jersey cotton, snuggly wrapped around your neck, they may even protect you from this season’s flu. ‘The Poisoner’s Infinity Scarf’ is just one of the many fun and fearsome online offerings of Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum; you can also check out a selection of curated books, homewares, and novelty items.
The online shop is there for you if the Mütter’s more earthly collection isn’t the stuff of your (good) dreams. Within the medical-history museum you’ll find oddities and science-y reliquaries of the first order: Check out the slides of Einstein’s brain. Among the cabinets upon cabinets full of human skulls and antique medical instruments, they’ve also tucked away a vertebra from John Wilkes Booth and the jaw tumor of President Grover Cleveland.
The Mütter is the home of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and is also dedicated to helping the public understand the history of the diagnosis and treatment of disease. This fall, the Spit Spreads Death exhibit and public health program will tell the story of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918–1919, which killed 12,000 people in Philadelphia in just six weeks; 20,000 died over a six-month period. The city had the highest death rate of any major metropolitan area in America, and the closely packed crowds of a Broad Street parade were a major factor in the spread of the virus.
The exhibit, which opens on October 17, is meant to help us understand just how quickly pandemics can wipe out large numbers of people in unexpected ways.”
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