Friday, May 21, 2010

"The Secret Museum," Photography Exhibition, Observatory, Closes June 6th

As many Morbid Anatomy readers already know, for many years now, I have been traveling the world with my camera, in search of obscure medical museums, cabinets of curiosity, dusty natural history museums, privately-held cabinets, untouched collections, and idiosyncratic assemblages of all sorts, front-stage and back, public and private. Some of the fruits of my labor make the way to the pages of this blog, or into various exhibitions such as 2007's Anatomical Theatre and last years Private Cabinets.

My latest project utilizing this material is photo exhibition at Observatory gallery in Brooklyn, New York. The exhibition, entitled "The Secret Museum," will be on view until Sunday June 6th, and features photographs of public and private, front-stage and back-stage collections from The United States, England, France, Poland, The Netherlands, Italy, and more. You will find in this exhibition photographs of taxidermied animals and humans (!), a life-sized breathing wax doll from the 19th century, Anatomical Venuses and Slashed Beauties, a fetal skeleton tableau from the 17th Century, backstage views at a number of natural history museums, an overlooked cabinet of curiosity in Paris, the untouched Teylers Museum of Haarlem, and much, much more.

Above are a just a very few of the many photographs included in the show (captions below); you can see a full collection of photographs (and some installation views as well!) by clicking here. Many photographs--all limited edition and signed giclée prints, handsomely framed and matted--are still available for sale, and quite reasonably priced! Please email me at if you are interested in finding out more.

Also, if you are interested in a guided walk-through of the collection, why not come out for Atlantic Avenue Artwalk, which will be taking place over the weekend of June 5th and 6th? I will be on hand all day at Observatory and its next-door-neighbor The Morbid Anatomy Library, and happy to guide any interested parties through the exhibition.

Full details follow; hope you can make it!
The Secret Museum
April 10 - June 6th
3-6 Thursday and Friday
12-6 Saturday and Sunday

An exhibition exploring the poetics of hidden, untouched and curious collections from around the world in photographs and artifacts, by Joanna Ebenstein, co-founder of Observatory and creator of Morbid Anatomy.

Photographer and blogger Joanna Ebenstein has traveled the Western world seeking and documenting untouched, hidden, and curious collections, from museum store-rooms to private collections, cabinets of curiosity to dusty natural history museums, obscure medical museums to hidden archives. The exhibition “The Secret Museum” will showcase a collection of photographs from Ebenstein’s explorations–including sites in The Netherlands, Italy, France, Austria, England and the United States–which document these spaces while at the same time investigating the psychology of collecting, the visual language of taxonomies, notions of “The Specimen” and the ordered archive, and the secret life of objects and collections, with an eye towards capturing the poetry, mystery and wonder of these liminal spaces.

To download press release, which includes sample images, please click here.
To see the entire exhibition in a virtual, on-line fashion, click here. To find out more about Observatory, including directions, click here. For more about the Atlantic Avenue Artwalk, click here. For more about the Morbid Anatomy Library, click here. For more on Anatomical Theatre, an exhibition about medical museums, click here. For more about Private Cabinets, an exhibition about privately held collections, click here.

Click on images to see much larger image; full collection to be found here, caption list here:
  1. Femme à barbe (Bearded Lady), Musée Orfila, Courtesy of Paris Descartes University
  2. Tim Knox and Todd Longstaffe-Gowan Collection, Private Collection, London, England
  3. Wax Department Store Mannequin, Early 20th Century; From the Home Collection of Evan Michelson, Antiques Dealer, New Jersey
  4. Wax Model, Musée Orfila, Paris. Courtesy Université Paris Descartes
  5. Venus Endormie (breathing model), Spitzner collection Collection Spitzner, Musée Orfila, Paris Courtesy Université Paris Descartes
  6. Bird Collection, “La Specola” (Museo di Storia Naturale), Florence, Italy
  7. Natural History Museum Backroom, Netherlands
  8. Natural History Museum Backroom, Netherlands
  9. Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de Rouen, Rouen, France
  10. Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, Gallery of Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy, Paris, France, Established 1793
  11. Teylers Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands, Established 1778
  12. Plaster Models in Pathological Cabinet, The Museum of the Faculty of Medicine at the Jagiellonian University, Krakow

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