Sunday, September 28, 2014

Caitlin Doughty's "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory" : Book Review by Tonya Hurley

Last week, our friend Caitlin Doughty came to the Morbid Anatomy Museum to talk about her new book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory. Tonya Hurley--acclaimed young adult novelist and a founding member of the museum--very kindly agreed to write the following review of the book for this blog; you can find out more about Tonya and her work by clicking here. You can order a copy of the book by clicking here.
Spoiler alert – WE ALL DIE.

But as first time author Caitlin Doughty notes in her brilliantly macabre, darkly comic memoir Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory,  “looking our mortality in the eye is no easy feat.” In fact, for many, it is impossible, conjuring up our greatest fears and worst memories. An undeniable fact which Doughty acknowledges and then summarily dismisses as she urges her readers to ‘leave their metaphorical blindfolds at the door” as she pulls back “the formaldehyde curtain” on the American funeral industry. As you would expect, Doughty explores the taboo topic of death rituals as she chronicles her time working at a crematorium and eventually attending mortuary school. More than just an eye-in-the-sky expose, however, the book is also a very personal account, delivering an insider’s unvarnished look at what happens to our bodies after we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.

Witty, humorous and profoundly insightful, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes documents Doughty’s days at Westwind Crematorium, where eager and green behind the ears, she tells a tale that skillfully leads the reader into her secret world, part Pied Piper, part Charon, transporter of souls across the river Styx. She describes the quirky, and often philosophical, characters that make up her workplace and pass through its doors and cremation machines. To her credit, she doesn’t hold back, giving the reader tantalizing morsels of horrifying details leavened by playful humor and historical facts about death rituals around the world ranging from the post-mortem cannibalism of the Wari people to Egyptian preservation – which is closest to our western practices to Tibetan sky burial courtesy of the vultures. 

Doughty, who’s life-long obsession with death informs Smoke, generously mixes details of her personal life  -- considering the exact moment when she became obsessed with death as a child after witnessing a little girl plummet in the mall -- with revolutionary ideas about how to treat our dead in a more ethical, green and loving ways. There are many laugh-out-loud moments -- “Hi, this is Amy from Science support; I’m dropping off some heads”-- and moments that will make you sick in the pit of your stomach like when she describes Mike, her Westwind mentor, preparing bodies in graphic detail. There are also such gut-wrenching moments as when she talks about the baby section of the freezer -- which they call the Sad Garden -- or when she cremates a young drug addict who, close to her age, is all alone with no one to give him a proper send off, his  mother relieved to no longer have to search the streets for him at night.

This book is entertaining, relatable, and revolutionary -- one that just might change your [after]life. She exposes the corporate funeral home trend and blows the whistle on the “beautiful death memory” they market. Doughty’s passion is contagious and her knowledge is boundless. She is a most likeable narrator, so likeable that you might end up wanting her to pull the switch at the crematorium before you become that “beautiful fire.”
Who should read this book: Fans of Roach’s Stiff, Mitford’s American Way of Death,  and/ or anyone who plans on dying someday.

To learn more about Doughty’s mission – visit the Order of the Good Death website and be sure to check out her Ask a Mortician videos
In short: A funny, insightful must-read for anyone who is planning to die. 
Tonya Hurley is a New York Times and international bestselling author of the ghostgirl series and The Blessed Trilogy. She created two television shows, has written and directed award-winning films broadcast on IFC and PBS, and is a founding board member of the Morbid Anatomy Museum.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Reflections on Being a Morbid Anatomy Museum Scholar in Residence: Guest Post by John Troyer, University of Bath's Centre for Death and Society

Following is a guest post in which Morbid Anatomy Museum former scholar in residence John Troyer of the University of Bath's Centre for Death and Society reflects, in his customarily thoughtful way, on his time at the museum. Thanks, John, and we already miss you!
One perk of being an academic is that you’re sometimes asked to temporarily join a cool organization as the in house scholar. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

This past August, I was the Scholar in Residence at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, New York.

An academic Residency can take on many forms and I focused on a few different activities alongside doing my own research.

I curated a group of films for a series I called “Tales from the Celluloid Coffin.” I also presented a group of illustrated lectures on my research.

The films covered everything from 1970’s future dystopias to contemporary ideas about memorializing the dead.

The illustrated lectures presented my research on a number of topics, including dead body disposal technology, necrophilia laws, and the future of death.

The Morbid Anatomy Museum had only been officially open about six weeks when my Residency began and it hit two months by the time I finished. This is important because the MAM is a new institution and is in the early stages of building its intellectual, artistic, and economic infrastructure.

The Museum grew out of the Morbid Anatomy Library, started in 2008 by Museum Creative Director Joanna Ebenstein. I have known Joanna since July 2009.

We first met when I gave a talk at the Morbid Anatomy Library space on the history of 19th century dead body preservation entitled ‘Bodies Embalmed by Us NEVER TURN BLACK!’: A Brief History of the Hyperstimulated Human Corpse. I then went on to give a series of other talks for the Library, as well as work with Joanna on events at the Coney Island Museum and in London.

Some general observations on the new Morbid Anatomy Museum and its transition away from the Morbid Anatomy Library:

The audiences for the films and lectures at the Museum are different than they were at the Library. I noticed this right away. The audiences were largely people who hadn’t been to many (if any) previous Museum or Library events, and weren’t entirely sure what to expect. This is good, I think. It’s bound to happen when institutions change and the Museum is in the process of building an entirely new kind of audience base. I always found the audiences for my Museum talks responsive and full of good questions. The key issue here is to maintain the Museum’s institutional integrity while building this new audience and to avoid defaulting to ‘wacky’ events in order to keep selling tickets. I don’t think that the MAM will lose sight of its intellectual foundations but, alas, economic concerns sometime begin to weigh on programming decisions. I’ve been part of those kinds of conversations many times in the past.

Another issue that became apparent to me during my Residency was that popular culture and mass media interest in death has peaked. This observation is partly related to the saturation coverage anything and everything about death is currently receiving from mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times, Vice, National Public Radio, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, etc., the list goes on and on. At a certain point, the popular culture and mass media interest will also become farcical, something that seems to already be happening.

One sidenote: reporters should really, really learn to stop using death related puns and then think that they’re clever, but I’ve long since given up on that ever happening.

The other reason that I think popular culture interest in death has peaked is related to the research that I was doing during my Residency. I’m currently looking at 1970’s death discourse and end-of-life movements, mostly in America but also the United Kingdom. Until relatively recently, I was unaware how much popular attitudes towards death had changed from 1970-1979. It turns out that the 1970’s were a hotbed of discussion, activism, and death culture debate that significantly affected our contemporary moment. A number of groups that took shape during the 1970’s remain with us today, e.g., the death acceptance movement, the natural death movement (which advocated foregoing medical treatment to die ‘naturally’), and death with dignity groups.

One scholar’s work in particular, Lyn H. Lofland Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of California Davis, really sums up (for me) how changes to American death attitudes create new kinds of societal norms. She also adds a cautionary note regarding death’s inevitable chic:
…it seems likely that eventually humans will construct for themselves a new, or at least altered, death culture and organization — a new “craft of dying” – better able to contain the new experience…I believe, as do other sociological observers…that in the ferment of activity relative to death and dying during the last two decades in the United States we have witnessed and are witnessing just such a reconstruction. Undoubtedly within this ferment, especially that emanating from the mass media, there are elements of fad and fashion – a thanatological “chic” as it were, having approximately the same level of import as organic gardening and home canning among the rich. And certainly one can never underestimate the capacity of American public discourse to transform “life and death matters” into passing enthusiasms. But there is, I believe, more to this activity than simply one more example of impermanent trendiness in modern life. Americans, especially affluent middle-class Americans, have been in the process of creating new or at least altered ways of thinking, believing, feeling, and acting about death and dying because they have been confronting a new “face of death.
This quote is on p.16 of her book The Craft of Dying: The Modern Face of Death, which was published in 1978. If anyone reading this passage was struck by how uncannily it describes 2014, then you’re not alone. Indeed, reading Lofland’s work has been a revelation and the 1970s have become my new area of research.

Per Lofland’s thirty-year-old observations, an institution such as the Morbid Anatomy Museum is made conceptually possible, I think, because of the current middle class interest in death and thanatological chic. What made the Museum physically possible was the time and labor spent building the Morbid Anatomy Library, a project that never set out to be fashionable. The challenge the Museum now faces is when death chic is replaced by another interest for the urban middle classes.

A final thought on an issue that the 1970’s were never able to solve. Affluent, mostly white middle-class Americans need to also expand their current death interests beyond themselves and begin tackling funeral and death poverty for the poor. It’s a lot easier to make elaborate home-based funerals your political cause when you’ve got the time (which translates into money) to do so. The quicker that this economic reality is recognized by today’s Happy Death Movement (a term Lofland coined in the 1970’s) the sooner longer lasting changes will occur.

The upside of these dilemmas is that even when death’s middle class fashionability dissipates, the face of death will continue to stare us all down.

In a word, the work never ends.

Many thanks to the following people who helped make my Residency so wonderful and productive:
Laetitia, Brant, Joanna, AC, Paco, Eric Sollien, Christine Colby and Lady Aye

And special thanks to:
Mac, Catherine, Daphne, Oona, and Simon
Photo of John Troyer at the Morbid Anatomy Museum by Christine Colby

Thursday, September 11, 2014

October is "Death in Mexico" Month at Morbid Anatomy with Scholar in Residence Salvador Olguín

This October, the majority of the programming at the Morbid Anatomy Museum will be devoted to the unique cultural practices around death in Mexico under the tutelage of Mexico-born scholar in residence Salvador Olguín, a writer and researcher with an MA in Humanities and Social Thought from NYU who has worked extensively with cultural artifacts connected to the representation of Death. 

Over the course of the month, Olguín will seek to explore--via lectures, screenings, workshops, a reading group, field trips and a party--the historical background behind some of Mexico's most intriguing cultural practices and artifacts such as Day of the Dead and Santa Muerte (see above). Offerings include a reading group exploring ways in which the theme of human sacrifice has haunted the Mexican nation ever since the Spaniards first learned about this practice among the Aztecs, and will culminate in our second annual Field Trip to Mexico City and Oaxaca for Day of the Dead. The month's activities are co-sponsored by the Mexican Cultural Institute of New York.

Following is a full list of events taking place as part of Olguín's residency. To learn more about him, click here. Hope to see you at one or more of these terrific events!

“La Santa Muerte (Saint Death)” A Screening of the Documentary with Director Eva Aridjis
Date: Friday, October 3rd
Time: 8pm

Admission: $8 (tickets here)
Tonight, join us and director Eva Aridjis for a film about the rapidly growing cult of Santa Muerte, or Saint Death. This female grim reaper, considered a saint by followers but Satanic by the Catholic Church, is worshiped by people whose lives are filled with danger and/or violence- criminals, gang members, transvestites, sick people, drug addicts, and families living in rough neighborhoods.

More here.


'Cuerpo Presente': Mourning and Cultural Representations of Death in Mexico, Featuring a Collection of Postmortem Photographs from Rural Mexico: An Illustrated lecture with Salvador Olguín
Date: Tuesday, October 7th
Time: 8pm
Admission: $8 (tickets here)

This illustrated lecture will present a series of postmortem photographs taken between the 1930’s and the 1950’s, when the tradition of celebrating a person’s departure with a last photo was very much alive in small towns and villages in Mexico.

More here.

Halloween/Day of the Dead Flea Market with multiple vendors selling taxidermy galore, mexican folk art, unusual antiques, obscure books, and assorted curiosities
Date: Sunday, October 12th
Time: 12pm to 6pm
Admission: FREE

Halloween/Day of the Dead Flea Market with your favorite artists, makers and antique peddlers, including Rebeca Olguin and Day of the Dead folk art; Daisy Tainton with her insect shadowboxes and mourning rings; Invisible Gallery and with his taxidermilogical curiosities; Elizabeth New and her abject housewares; Deadly Chocolate by Curious Candies; and many more!

More here.


Screening of ¡Que Viva Mexico! by Sergei Eisenstein
Date: Sunday, October 12th
Time: 8pm
Admission: $8 (tickets
here)In 1930, after failing to secure enough backing for his motion picture projects in the US, Russian filmmaker Serguéi Eisenstein headed south to Mexico, where he shot about 40 hours worth of film. The idea was to produce a movie celebrating Mexico’s violent and diverse history. The title: ¡Que viva México! Join us to watch this film in our large screen, and for a conversation with writer Salvador Olguín afterwards.
More here.

Human Sacrifice in Theory and History: Mexico and Beyond: Reading and discussion group led by Salvador Olguín
Dates: Three Mondays, October 13th, 20th and 27th
Time: 8pm
Admission: $28 (tickets

In this guided reading group, writer and Morbid Anatomy Museum scholar in residence Salvador Olguín will introduce attendees to texts, testimonials, and images dealing with the themes of human sacrifice and decapitation, in an attempt to understand the symbolic nature of current events and events in history. The class will touch on George Bataille's Acéphale society, which strove to, via a literal human sacrifice, save the world from catastrophe. It will also explore the ways in which the theme of human sacrifice has haunted the Mexican nation ever since the Spaniards first learned about this practice among the Aztecs.

More here.


Field trip to Santa Muerte Shrine in Queens; save the date!
Date: October 18; More soon!


Death and the Idea of Mexico: An Illustrated Lecture by Claudio Lomnitz, Director of the Center for Mexican Studies at Columbia University and author of Death and the Idea of Mexico
Date: Tuesday, October 21st
Time: 8pm
Admission: $8 (tickets here)

In this lecture, professor Lomnitz will provide us with a glance into said past. The lecture is based on Lomnitz’s book (available for sale and signing at the Museum) Death and the Idea of Mexico, the first social, cultural, and political history of death in a nation that has made death its tutelary sign.

More here.


Annual Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos Party

Featuring an illustrated Lecture by Dr. Andrew Chestnut, Music, Costumes, Calavera Makeup, Tequila, Traditional Altar, Sugar Skulls, Death Piñata, and more!
Date: Friday, October 24th
Time: 8pm
Admission: $25 - $15 for Morbid Anatomy Museum Members (tickets
Presented by Morbid Anatomy and Borderline Projects

Please join us on Friday, October 24 for our annual Morbid Anatomy Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos costume party! Featuting a mini-lecture by Dr. Andrew Chestnut, author of "Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, The Skeleton Saint," Calavera Makeup by Jane Rose, tequila, music, sugar skulls, our beloved La Catrina, exotic tunes by DJ in Residence Friese Undine, a Day of the Dead Altar honoring the late film director Luis Bunuel, a Mexican Food Truck and, as always, an opportunity to strike a mortal blow to our beautiful piñata of Lady Death herself!

More here.


Papel Picado (Day of the Dead Cut Paper Decoration) workshop with Rebeca Olguín

Date: Sunday, October 26th
Time: 1pm to 6pm
Admission: $100 (tickets here)

During this workshop the participants will make their own papel picado creations withdrawing inspiration from the traditional techniques and motives of the art of papel picado in Mexico

More here.

Muerte en Mexico: A Special Field Trip to Mexico City and Oaxaca for for Day of the Dead to Visit Sites Important to the History of Death in Mexico
Dates: October 31 – November 4 2014 (**Must reserve by July 15)
 $675.00 USD (includes all hotels in double-rooms, luxury ground transportation, museum admissions, guided visits, and breakfasts; airfares not included); email to reserve a space. Please send payments via PayPal to:  SOLD OUT

A 4-day trip to Mexico City and Oaxaca for Day of the Dead; curated, organized and guided by Mexican writer and scholar Salvador Olguín for Borderline Projects, and Morbid Anatomy. Includes day of the dead celebrations, markets, churches, luxury bus travel, hotels, tickets to museums and breakfasts.

More here.

Photo: Santa Muerte shrine, Mexico City.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Symposium: The Visual Culture of Medicine and Its Objects, Riggs Library, Georgetown University, Washington DC, September 23

I wish I could attend this free, open to the public excellent looking symposium co-organized by good friend Michael Sappol of The National Library of Medicine!
Symposium: The Visual Culture of Medicine and Its Objects
September 23, 2014
Riggs Library, Georgetown University, Washington DC
Organizers: Keren Hammerschlag (Georgetown University),
Michael Sappol (National Library of Medicine)

The Department of Art amd Art History at Georgetown University, in collaboration with the History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health), presents an interdisciplinary symposium dedicated to critically and creatively examining medical objects, broadly conceived. Presenters from diverse scholarly and professional backgrounds will undertake close readings of medical objects in a variety of media and genres—book illustrations, paintings, sculptures, pamphlets, photographs, instruments, motion pictures and more—from the collections of the National Library of Medicine, Georgetown University, and other repositories. Our aim is to encourage new ways of engaging with objects that sit at the intersection between art and medicine. The outcome, we hope, will be a broadened conception of how the visual and notions of visuality function or falter in medical practice past and present. The program can be found online at

All welcome but numbers are limited. Please register by emailing:

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Knick, Minus Painkillers: Review of Cristin O’Keefe Aptowitz's "Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine," by Rebecca Rego Barry

This Wednesday, September 10th, The Morbid Anatomy Museum will be hosting author Cristin O’Keefe Aptowitz for a talk based on her new book Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine. Rebecca Rego Barry--editor of Fine Books and Collections magazine and a collector of nineteenth-century surgical books--has just written a fascinating and informative review of the the book, which follows below. You can find out more about Rebecca here. Hope very much to see you at the lecture with the author on Wednesday night, where copies of the book will be available for sale and signing! More on that here.
The Knick, Minus Painkillers
Gory medical scenes in director Steven Soderbergh’s brainchild, "The Knick," will make viewers squirm. The new Cinemax series, which debuted on August 8, is certainly not for the squeamish (it airs on Friday nights). Five minutes into the first episode, we’re already watching a surgeon slice into an anesthetized pregnant woman in his twelfth unsuccessful—and deadly—attempt at a C-section. And yet, the show’s bloodiness pales in comparison to the torture described in a fascinating new book by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowitz, Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine (Gotham Books, Sept., $27.50). The difference? Ether.   
"The Knick" is set in a fictional version of the real Knickerbocker Hospital in New York City in 1900, a relatively modern age for medicine. By then, at least, doctors understood that cleanliness, particularly sterilized hands and tools, could seriously diminish the spread of infection. They also had the ability to chemically induce sleep in patients who needed surgical treatment. Not so the physicians in Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter’s time, only sixty years earlier. When he cut into a patient, she felt every incision. During one of the surgeries chronicled by Aptowitz, Mütter removes a chunk of skin from the neck of a 28-year-old woman, who, having been badly burned at the age of 5, was considered a “monster.” With one attendant to restrain her, Mütter took his scalpel to her neck “deep enough to get through the heavy scar tissue, but light enough to, hopefully, avoid the delicate muscles of the neck and the heavily trafficked arteries and veins.” And after he had finished with that, the second stage of the surgery commenced. “The woman tried to stifle her cry as Mütter carved out a piece of skin from her back—six and half inches in length, by six in width, slightly larger but the same shape as the wound on the front of her neck.” He had created a “flap,” which was then lifted over her shoulder and stitched onto her damaged neck—all of that, without so much as a drop of nitrous oxide (they prescribed mouthfuls of wine, as needed). He then starved her for almost a week, which was considered ‘best practices,’ and she lived. 
The Virginia-born Mütter studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and in Paris, but returned to Philadelphia to lead an American renaissance in medical care. This was a world, Aptowitz reminds readers, where bleeding a patient, with a lancet or a leech, was a common treatment for just about anything, and “one in every four births resulted in the death of the infant.” Add to that a lack of electricity, regular outbreaks of cholera, typhus, and dysentery, plus the ubiquitous tuberculosis, and you can understand when the author writes, “Philadelphia in the early 1800s was an easy place to die.”
Dr. Mütter’s particular interest was plastic surgery and helping those with congenital or acquired deformities; he sewed up cleft palates and removed unsightly tumors. As the brash, young chair of surgery at the startup Jefferson Medical College, he inspired thousands of students, facilitated the building of a teaching hospital, championed sanitary practices even though germ theory was still being debated in American medical schools, and introduced the use of ether anesthesia in Philadelphia after two Boston doctors gave the first-ever public demonstration of the drug in October of 1846. (Philadelphia was not impressed; the board of the city’s Pennsylvania Hospital voted to ban surgical anesthesia for seven years.)
Mütter was an innovator, a bit more industrious and a bit less drug-addled, perhaps, than his counterpart on "The Knick," Dr. John Thackery, played by Clive Owen, but Thackery has his moments, too. When faced with an emergency procedure for a man dying of septicemia who also has bronchitis and cannot be put under, the good doctor improvises with a cocaine epidural. A bold and historically appropriate move—the show’s writers and producers have done their homework—because attempting the surgery without sedation would have been impossible, right? Thackery informs his students, “We must operate but we cannot do it to a man who will feel pain.”
That’s why Mütter and his colleagues, even the obtuse ones who refused to believe in contagion, seem quite heroic in Aptowitz’s engaging book. They sawed off entire limbs to the sound of blood-curdling screams, knowing full well that many on whom they labored would die anyway.
Mütter, the handsome and well-dressed doctor with audacious ideas, was not exactly lost to history before Aptowitz picked up his trail, but interest in early medicine—and his Mütter Museum, which he founded with his own collection of anatomical specimens and oddities and $30,000 just before his early death at age 48—was certainly relegated to a small group of fans who like a little history with their blood and guts. Those of us who visit places like the The Morbid Anatomy Museum, watch shows like "The Knick," and read books like this one.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Today and Tomorrow: Vesalius Continuum: Conference Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of Andreas Vesalius: Zakynthos, Greece

I am delighted to be speaking tomorrow, Sunday September 7th, at "Vesalius Continuum," a conference celebrating the 500th anniversary of "father of modern anatomy" Andreas Vesalius.

I will be speaking about The Morbid Anatomy Museum as part of an afternoon session beginning at 2:00 and entitled "Fabrica Vitae; the stuff of life: A perception of the human body seen through the eye of the contemporary artist" and chaired by Pascale Pollier and Martin Kemp of Spectacular Bodies fame.

Organized by friends Pascale Pollier and Dr. Ann Van de Velde, the "Vesalius Continuum" will take place on the Greek island of Zakynthos (where Vesalius dies in 1564) from September 4-8, and will host a wonderful mix of scientists and artists, medical historians, art historians, medical artists and contemporary artists.

Full conference lineup fellows; for more--and to register!--click here. Hope very much to see you there!
Vesalius Continuum Commemorating the 500th Anniversary of Andreas Vesalius
Conference Program
Zakynthos, Greece September 4-8 2014

Thursday, 4 September 2014

10.00: gathering of the officials, speakers and guests
10.30: Opening Ceremony (hosted by Theo Dirix)
10.35: Greetings of Welcome by  Mr Stelios Bozikis, Mayor of Zakynthos; H.E. Marc Van den Reeck, Ambassador of Belgium in Athens; Pascale Pollier, President BIOMAB and AEIMS
10.55: Greek representatives of the Ministries of Health, Education and Tourism
11.15: Key-note speaker: Stefanos Geroulanos, MD, PhD, Professor of Surgery, University of Zurich, Prof emeritus History of Medicine, University of Ioannina, President
11.45: Welcome drink and canapes (hosted by Dr. Stephen Joffe)
13.15 – 14.00: Unveiling of the new monument sculpted by Richard Neave and Pascale Pollier and Plinth with Vesalius coat of arms sculpted by Chantal Pollier and Inauguration
17.00 – 19.30: Round Table: "Traveling through time with a camera in Zakynthos:,
Vesalius and the healers in his footsteps" chaired by: Katerina Demeti, Director of the Museum of D. Solomos and Katerina Kabassi, Head of the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage, TEI of Ionian Islands

Friday, 5 September 2014 / morning session 09:00-12:30
Session 1: Andreas Vesalius – The Life.
Chairs: Stephen Joffe (USA) and Pavlos Plessas (GR)
09.00 – 09.20: Raffaele De Caro - Vesalius’ time in Padova
09.20 – 09.40: Theodoor Goddeeris - Itinerarium Andreae Vesalii
09.40 – 10.00: Maurits Biesbrouck - The last months of Andreas Vesalius
10.00 – 10.30: Discussion
10.30 – 11.00: Coffee break
11.00 – 11.20: Pavlos Plessas - Powerful indications that Vesalius died from scurvy
11.20 – 11.40: Sylviane Dederix- The Quest for the Grave, a G.I.S of the vicinity of the Santa Maria delle Grazie church
11.40 – 12.00: Omer Steeno - Franciscus and Anna: Vesalius’ Brother and Sister in the Spotlight
12.00 – 12.30: Discussion
10.30 – 11.00: Lunch break

Topics: The details of Vesalius’ life were established, to a considerable extent, in Charles O’Malley’s biography published in 1964 on the 400th anniversary of his death and in a later work by Stephen Joffe. However, much recent original historical work (by Steeno, Biesbrouck Goddeeris and Plessas) has focused on the circumstances of his last voyage, his death and his burial place on the island (The Quest for the Grave: Pantokrator or Santa Maria delle Grazia?). Presentation of a G.I.S. by Sylviane Dederix of the Foundation for Research and Technology, Hellas (F.O.R.T.H.) and Institute for Mediterranean Studies (I.M.S.) (deputy director Apostolos Sarris) and Pavlos Plessas, seconded by EBSA, the Belgian School in Athens (director Jan Driessen), sponsored by Agfa Healthcare and coordinated by Theo Dirix, will be made by Sylviane Dederix (F.O.R.T.H., UCL). An attempt is made to identify Vesalius’s cause of death (Pavlos Plessas).

Friday, 5 September 2014 / afternoon session 14:00 – 17:30
Session 2: Andreas Vesalius- The Work.
Chairs: Vivian Nutton (UK) and Sachiko Kusukawa (UK).
14.00 – 14.20: Guy Cobolet – Vesalius’ De Humani Corporis Fabrica in context
14.20 – 14.40: Daniel Garrison - Vesalius’ Epistle on the China Root (1546): The Recovering Humanist
14.40 – 15.00: Jacqueline Vons - Vivitur ingenio
15.00 – 15.30: Discussion
15.30 – 16.00: Coffee break
16.00 – 16.20: Stephane Velut.-Vesalius’ Anatomical Observations
16.20 – 16.40: Vivian Nutton - Vesalius and his Annotations
16.40 – 17.00: David J. Williams - Vesalius at Cambridge
17.00 – 17.30: Discussion

Topics: The Fabrica (1543) will of course be the central focus. There are two new developments of special interest concerning what is rightly considered to be one of the great treasures of Western civilisation. A second edition has recently been discovered which scholarly analysis (by Nutton) suggests was annotated by Vesalius himself in preparation for a never published third edition. Karger, located in Basel where the original was published, are bringing out a new English translation (by Garrison and Hast) to coincide with the quincentenary. Attention will also be directed toward his other works such as the Epitome and the China Root Epistle.

20.30: Open Air Concert with Beatriz Macias (flute, voice), Yannick Van De Velde (piano) and Roeland Henkens (trumpet), at the Church of Faneromeni, built in the 17th C, destroyed by the earthquake of 1953, but restored following its original design. The concert opens a tour on the Ionian Islands as part of the cultural cycle: Things from Belgium.

Saturday, 6 September 2014 / morning session 09:00-12:30
Session 3: The art of human anatomy: Renaissance to 21st century
Chairs: Brian Hurwitz ( UK) and Ruth Richardson (UK).
09.00 – 09.20: Robrecht van Hee – Vesalius’s long term impact
09.20 – 09.40: Francis Wells – Leonardo’s working heart
09.40 – 10.00: Roberta Ballestriero – Three dimensional anatomy
10.00 – 10.30: Discussion
10.30 – 11.00: Coffee break
11.00 – 11.20: Ruth Richardson – Gray’s Anatomy
11.20 – 11.40: Paolo Mazzarello and Valentina Cani- Golgi and the fine structure of the nervous system
11.40 – 12.00: Marco Catani- the art of brain imaging
12.00 – 12.30: Discussion
10.30 – 11.00: Lunch break

Topics: Relations between the art and science of anatomy from the time of Vesalius to the present will be considered with particular emphasis on the role of the medical artist and the changing nature of anatomical illustration over the last five centuries. Pivotal changes in the art of anatomy will be examined including the evolution of media and brain imaging from Golgi to Geschwind.

Saturday, 6 September 2014 /afternoon session 14:00-17:30
Session 4: 21st century anatomy teaching and learning Quo Vadis?
Chairs: Peter Abrahams (UK) and Francis van Glabbeek (BE).
14.00 – 14.20: Bernard Moxham – A modern way of learning gross anatomy/dissection by the students
14.20 – 14.40: Susan Standring - Grays anatomy: past, present and future roles of a major reference book
14.40 – 15.00: Shane Tubbs - Translational research: can surgery focus anatomical research and education- the reverse of Vesalius’ time?
15.00 – 15.20: Marios Loukas - Radiology and imaging : a servant of anatomists or shining light of clinical anatomy education?
15.20 – 15.40: Discussion
15.40 – 16.00: Coffee break
16.00 – 16.20: Robert Trelease – Ideal world or not: designing modern anatomy teaching and facilities for meeting changing demands in evolving curricula.
16.20 – 16.40: Richard Turnstall - Latest technology: how can emerging technologies enhance anatomy teaching and learning and has 3D technology got an important future role?
16.40 – 17.00: Tom Lewis – Mobile technology and medical Apps in modern anatomy education: an innovative replacement for the cadaver experience?
17.00 – 17.30: Questions and discussion-Final summary
Speakers all Sponsored by: St. George's University, Grenada, West Indies

Saturday, 6 September 2014 /evening 19:00-20:00
Film: ‘Do we feel with our brain and think with our heart?' by Jan Fabre and Giacomo Rizzolatti
Film: Fabrica Vitae by Sofie Hanegreefs and Jelle Jansens

Sunday, 7 September 2014 / morning session 09:00-12:30
Session 5: 21st century art of human anatomy.
Chair: Ann Van de Velde (BE).
09.00 – 09.20: Eleanor Crook – Depicting a mechanism of life: why the dissected body will not lie down and die.
09.20 – 09.40: Rachael Allen – Project ANATOME: when artist meets anatomy education.
09.40 – 10.00: Margot Cooper and Catherine Sultzmann- Staying ahead of the curve: the future of 3D models and the past from which they developed
10.00 – 10.30: Discussion
10.30 – 11.00: Coffee break
11.00 – 11.20: Lisa Temple-Cox and Glenn Harcourt – “It’s my own invention”. Looking glass and speculum: an anatomical Alice.
11.20 – 11.40: Tonya Hines - Open Access Publishing: The Role of Medical Illustrators in Open Science
11.40 – 12.00: Lucy Lyons – Drawing parallels
12.00 – 12.30: Discussion
10.30 – 11.00: Lunch break

Topics: The role of the medical artist in the 21st century will be addressed together with strategies for the education of medical artists and medical students. The wider field of medical art in the forensic field, in the research field and in the publishing world and literature will be explored, and a close look taken at European ‘Art and Science’ courses and collaborations.

Sunday, 7 September 2014 / afternoon session 14:00-17:00
Session 6: Fabrica Vitae; the stuff of life: A perception of the human body seen through the eye of the contemporary artist
Chairs: Pascale Pollier (BE) and Martin Kemp (UK).
14.00 – 14.20: Stelarc - Engineering aliveness and affect in humanoid robots.
14.20 – 14.40: Nina Sellars- The optics of anatomy and light
14.40 – 15.00: Mara Haseltine – Geotherapy, Art from the Nano to the Geo : Art that addresses the link between our biological and cultural evolution.
15.00 – 15.30: Discussion
15.30 – 16.00: Coffee break
16.00 – 16.20: Joanna Ebenstein – The Morbid Anatomy Museum: A new institution devoted to art and medicine, death and culture, and the things which fall between the cracks
16.20 – 16.40: Andrew Carnie – A change of heart
16.40 – 17.00: Film; Fabrica Vitae by Jelle Jansens and Sofie Hanegreefs. (Andere
Wereld films)
17.00 – 17.30: Discussion

Topics: A session devoted to a variety of cultural events at the interface between the human body, science and technology, sci art, the cyborg body, quantum physics, encompassing performance art, theatre, music and poetry.

Special Plenary Lecture
17.30: Martin Kemp ‘Rhetorics of the real in the Fabrica: Vesalius’s graphic and textual strategies’

Sunday, 7 September 2014 / evening 18:30 -19:30
18:30 – 19:30: Private View exhibition Fabrica Vitae with Champagne reception

Monday, 8 September 2014 / morning session 09:00-10:00
09:00- 10:00: Annual General Meeting for
MAA, AEIMS, and other associations
With thanks to our sponsors
  • Paulsen Media BV
  • Dr. and Mrs Stephen N. Joffe, USA
  • The Wellcome Trust
  • The Vesalius Trust
  • St George’s University Medical School, Grenada
  • Association Européenne des illustrateurs Médicaux et Scientifiques (AEIMS)
  • Biological and Medical Art in Belgium (BIOMAB)
  • H.E. Marc Van den Reeck, Ambassador of Belgium, Athens
  • Theo Dirix, Consul, Embassy of Belgium, Athens
  • The Municipality of Zakynthos, Greece
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Belgium
  • The Organizing Committee expresses its gratitude to all organizations and individuals offering advice and support.
Image: Frontispiece to Andreas Vesalius's De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem. Basel: Johannes Oporinus, 1555. Found here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Stage Actress Ellen Terry's Lady Macbeth Gown, Made of 1000 Jewel Beetle Wings, 1888

A fascinating bit of news just sent my way by good friend, the über-talented Matt Murphy:
Victorian-Era Dress, Made With 1,000 Beetle Wings, Restored for £50,000
It took 1,300 hours and £50,000 ($81,000), but a glittering emerald gown made from 1,000 beetle parts is ready for its stage entrance once more. Decked with the sloughed-off wings of the jewel beetle, and worn by actress Ellen Terry in the role of Lady Macbeth at London’s Lyceum Theatre in 1888, the dress was one of the most celebrated costumes of the era. Although it’s immortalized in a John Singer Sargent portrait currently at the Tate, the dress has seen much wear, tear, and alterations in its 120 years, rising to the top of the National Trust’s conservation priority list."
Full story can be found on Ecouterre by clicking here.

Photos by Zenzie Tinker.