Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tonight and Tomorrow at Observatory: Extreme Taxidermy and Dubiously Sourced Bodies and Anatomical Learning!

Tonight and tomorrow night at Observatory; hope to see you there!

Kitten Tea Parties, Auto Icons, and Habitat Groups: A Brief History of Taxidermy
An Illustrated Lecture by Dr. Pat Morris, Royal Holloway, University of London

Date: TONIGHT! Thursday, April 21
Time: 8:00 PM
Admission: $5

Tonight, taxidermy scholar and collector Pat Morris will discuss the fascinating and sometimes bizarre history of taxidermy as explored in his new book A History of Taxidermy: Art, Science and Bad Taste. Along the way, Morris will discuss anthropomorphic taxidermy of the sort made famous by Victorian museologist and taxidermist Walter Potter, "extreme taxidermy" (ie. human taxidermy), and the role of taxidermy in the history of scientific display and popular culture. He will also detail the development of taxidermy as an art form, tracing its development from the stiff rudimentary mounts which characterized its beginnings to the artistic triumphs of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Copies of his new book History of Taxidermy: Art, Science and Bad Taste will also be available for sale and signing.

Dr. Pat Morris is a retired staff member of Royal Holloway College (University of London), where he taught biology undergraduates and supervised research on mammal ecology. In that capacity he has published many books and scientific papers and featured regularly in radio and TV broadcasts. The history of taxidermy has been a lifelong hobby interest and he has published academic papers and several books on the subject. With his wife Mary he has travelled widely, including most of Europe and the USA, seeking interesting taxidermy specimens and stories. They live in England where their house is home to the largest collection and archive of historical taxidermy in Britain.

Ill-gotten Brains: The Grisly History of Sourcing Bodies for Anatomical Learning
An Illustrated Lecture with Megan Curran, Norris Medical Library, USC
Date: TOMORROW, Friday, April 22
Time: 8:00 PM
Admission: $5

The idea of donating your body to science is actually a very new concept. There wasn’t even a national law governing the process until the late 1960s. How, then, did medical illustrators, going back hundreds of years, acquire bodies to draw? Many bodies were “donated” alright, but the dead people didn’t know they were being so generous. Prisoners, the indigent, robbed graves, and even murders helped supply medical schools and doctors for centuries.

This wild history of sourcing human bodies spans from the dawn of modern anatomy in the Renaissance with Vesalius (and even artists like Da Vinci and Michelangelo), through the 19th century's institutionalized medical school body snatchings, and up to Nazi medicine and the controversy over plastinated bodies in exhibits like Body Worlds.

For tonight's lecture, join Megan Curran of USC's Norris Medical Library for fascinating accounts of how bodies were procured for the advance of science, often through less than ethical means, accompanied by images from USC's rare medical books.

Megan Curran is the Head of Metadata & Content Management for the Norris Medical Library of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA. Megan manages the history of medicine and rare books collections at USC and has been working to promote that collection. Megan serves on the editorial board of the Journal of the Medical Library Association, and is on the board of the Archivists & Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences. Megan originally hails from Philadelphia and is a dyed-in-the-wool rare book nerd.

You can find out more about these events on the Observatory website by clicking here and here; You can get directions to Observatory--which is next door to the Morbid Anatomy Library (more on that here)--by clicking here. You can find out more about Observatory here, join our mailing list by clicking here, and join us on Facebook by clicking here.

Images: Top: The Auto-Icon of Jeremy Bentham. Mr. Bentham requested in his will that his body be preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet. It has been on display since 1850 at University College London. Photo by Joanna Ebenstein.
Bottom: Opera omnia anatomica & chirurgica, Andreas Vesalius

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