Monday, March 11, 2013

Museo di Anatomia Umana (Museum of Human Anatomy), Pisa: Italy Trip Guest Post by Evan Michelson, TV's "Oddities" and Morbid Anatomy Library

Below, the fourth guest post by Evan Michelson of "Oddities" and the Morbid Anatomy Library documenting our trip through Italy researching the history of the preservation and display of the human corpse. Here, her response to the small but wonderful Museo di Anatomia Umana (Museum of Human Anatomy) of Pisa:
The Museum of Human Anatomy at Pisa is located at the school of medicine and surgery, just a few steps away from the Piazza dei Miracoli which contains the overly-familiar Leaning Tower - a 12th century campanile gone wrong.

The museum collection has an interesting history: Pisa was host to the First Conference of Italian Scientists in 1839 - a somewhat radical gathering uniting scientists from several disciplines. According to our guide, this was a philosophically Positivist convocation that was determined to make sure that science would have an important role to play in a newly unifying Italy. Scientists from the Papal States were not in attendance. Much of the current museum collection was organized for that gathering.

There were several "petrified" preparations in the collection (petrification being an Italian specialty), a fine osteological display, and a nice array of wet preparations. Of particular interest were the full-size flayed human specimens, whose vessels were injected with chalk (an odd method, but confirmed by several sources).

The mummy of Gaetano Arrighi, a convict who died in the early 19th century, seemed to have particular pride of place. His body went unclaimed and he was prepared according to a 19th century Italian recipe, but the results appear quite ancient. I fell in love with a particularly vivid, gesticulating infant in a nearby case, but the mummy certainly did have his charms.
You can find out more about the Museo di Anatomia Umana, Pisa (Museum of Human Anatomy at Pisa) by clicking here. You can read future posts by Evan both on this blog and on her Facebook page, which you will find by clicking here. All images are mine, from the museum.

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