This following is a guest report by Laura Lindgren of Blast Books. She is the publisher, editor, art director, and designer of the Mütter Museum books and calendars and graced us with a presentation at the Morbid Anatomy Library the second of January.
Mütter 150 Celebration: Gretchen Worden Unveiled
A hundred and fifty years ago the College of Physicians of Philadelphia completed the agreement with Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter to acquire his personal teaching "museum," which joined the College's existing cabinet of pathological specimens from Dr. Isaac Parrish to become The Mütter Museum, which opened in 1863. That's right--the sesquicentennial of the founding of the Mütter Museum! A lively celebration was held at the College last Friday night, January 9.
One highlight of the evening was the unveiling of the classic oil portrait commissioned by the College of the Mütter Museum's beloved late director, Gretchen Worden [see top image]. As many Morbid Anatomy readers know, Gretchen devoted her entire professional career of twenty-nine years to the Mütter Museum and the College until her untimely death at age fifty-six in 2004.
Following a cocktail reception in the College's elegant Marble Rotunda, Dr. George Wohlreich, Director and CEO of the College, spoke warmly about Gretchen and the impact of her many achievements with the Museum. Artist Alexandra Tyng [center image, with portrait] spoke about coming to know Gretchen by way of abundant reference materials and fond recollections from friends. Missing from the unveiling, naturally, was Gretchen--or was she? As the burgundy drape descended from the portrait and the audience gasped in astonishment, a wine glass toppled over from a table in the center of the rotunda and smashed on the floor. "Mazeltov!" shouted Paul Stridick, a friend of Gretchen since 1975. And J Bazzel confirmed: yes, it was a glass of "the cheap house red"--always her preference.
A Victorian dinner for those who had purchased tickets followed the portrait unveiling, in Thomson Hall, concluding with Dr. Robert Hicks, the new Director of the Mütter Museum, speaking about upcoming exhibitions he has planned beginning in 2011 for the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, and he presented a few Civil War items from the Museum for viewing, including a kit of gleaming surgical instruments.
Meanwhile opulent Mitchell Hall upstairs--famous for its walls lined with majestic portraits of leading august physicians and its grand podium--had been transformed into a far-out freak-out disco replete with lighted dance floors [see bottom image], and people partied like there was no tomorrow!
Fortunately tomorrow came after all--here's to all the tomorrows in the Mütter Museum's next 150 years!
The College will hold another celebration when the portrait is officially installed in the Worden Gallery in the Museum. Meantime, I will send a Mütter Museum 2009 calendar to the first Morbid Anatomy reader who correctly identifies the instrument Gretchen holds in her hands in the portrait. Let's hear from you! Email responses to email@example.com.
Laura LindgrenTo see more photos from the event, visit the Morbid Anatomy 150th Anniversary Flickr set. For more about the Mütter museum, see these recent Morbid Anatomy posts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) or visit the museum website.
Publisher, Blast Books