NOTE: The Morbid Anatomy Museum closed in 2016
There’s probably no other institution in the world that has both a taxidermist and a moulagist on staff, as well as a gift shop featuring creative works by both. It’s with archaic, creepy arts such as these that the Morbid Anatomy Museum (424 Third Ave., Gowanus, Brooklyn) strives to combine the beautiful with the bizarre and to bring to light practices and pursuits that have long fallen through the cracks.
Museum founder Joanna Ebenstein’s tastes have always run dark and slightly strange. “I’ve always been interested in life—and death,” she says. As a kid, I would pick up dead baby birds and my father would put them in formaldehyde for me.” Joanna’s own collection of curiosities comprise much of the museum’s permanent holdings, from phrenological death masks to antique medical devices.
In addition to being a collector, Joanna has also been curating lectures and events for years. She ran a series at Proteus Gowanus with lectures on topics like the history of skin grafts and the art of spider seduction, as well as an anthropomorphic taxidermy workshop that was so popular it often had more than 600 people on the waiting list.
The museum opened in 2014 and has firmly established itself as a home for quirky and unique offerings, both in terms of exhibits and through its near-constant programming. There are talks, panels, and classes almost every day, from a Victorian hair art workshop to an HP Lovecraft tour of Brooklyn, and from a lecture on the history of serial murder to a singles mixer called, of course, “Morbid Curiosity.” It’s a grim and gorgeous place and well worth a visit or twenty.
Oriana Leckert is a writer, editor, and cultural hipstorian [sic]. She is the creatrix of Brooklyn Spaces, a compendium of the borough’s creative and underground culture, and recently released Brooklyn Spaces: 50 Hubs of Culture and Creativity. Her writing has also appeared in Slate, Matador, Hyperallergic, Untapped Cities, Brokelyn, and Brooklyn Based. She is relentlessly happy and will probably correct your grammar.
Photo credit: Alix Piorun