Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum Dies A Grisly Death
I know 2016 just died, but I still feel like bitching about shit dying. So hey, why not kick that horse corpse one last time! We are facing a huge bummer here in Brooklyn; forced to mourn an establishment that was both a cultural and historical tribute to death. No matter how great a Non-Profit is, it’s still a Non-Profit and needs the support of an entire community to exist.
On December 6th the tribute to all things dark released their final plea for donations. By the 18th they announced their defeat, and by the 20th a gorgeous eulogy for the museum of eulogies had been posted on their blog by their scholar in residence, Evan Michelson.
The macabre yet warm and welcoming Morbid Anatomy Museum sat directly off the G or F 4th & 9th ave stop in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Housing a gift shop, full museum display, event space and a public library specializing in any death practices throughout both the cultural and historical spectrum’s; the museum was the perfect place for bibliophiles, scientists or even just the Goth to collide and discuss generally unwelcome subjects such as death, decomposition, and the afterlife.
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I am going to get personal. I loved the decomposing shit out of this place. For $8 you could tour whatever exhibit was featured at the moment and then spend unlimited time browsing the library, fumbling through out of print books or limited editions to your heart’s content.
The staff, just as preoccupied and death-obsessed as you are; avoided both talking AND eye contact so you could completely lose yourself in the dark curiosities surrounding you.
They offered events that ranged from live taxidermy classes to funeral director’s lectures to studies of hallucinogenic practices mimicking death throughout history. They even offered calm, collected death cafes where the like minded are urged to come enjoy some tea or coffee and talk about the very obvious fact everyone seems to be so consumed with ignoring; we are all going to die and in fact, are doing so right now.
This is scraping the surface, to say the least. I haven’t even mentioned the lectures or pagan masses held in ancient graveyards or churches at midnight by candlelight; each one more spiritual and educational than the last. Let alone the varied exhibits from around the world celebrating funerary traditions ranging from beautiful to strictly barbaric.
The Morbid Anatomy Museum was established on June 27, 2014, by Joanna Ebenstein and Tracy Hurley Martin as an expansion or rather a physical manifestation of Ebenstein’s phenomenal and long-standing blog and library, found here. The project is part of a larger movement started by Caitlyn Doughty, the mortician and author behind a now viral video blog series “Ask A Mortician” in 2011 called, “The Order Of The Good Death”.
The Order Of The Good Death in Miss Doughty’s own words is: “A nonprofit organization of funeral industry professionals, academics, and artists exploring ways to prepare a death phobic culture for their inevitable mortality.”
Part of the death positive movement is a massive push for us to accept rather than live in constant denial of the natural life cycle of our species. It also works to expose the myriad wasteful and pollutant problems of the overly capitalistic industry of death America currently utilizes today. Plus, it’s just really fun for morbid assholes like us.
I’m lucky I got to catch their last exhibit. As usual, we made our way through the Victorian taxidermy models of rats performing 18th-century medicinal procedures on each other; past the two dead squirrels enjoying tea time to see full wax anatomical models from even earlier European times upstairs.
Whether it was a mold of a Bubonic Plague boil, a Herpes Pustule, a child being birthed the wrong way, an inverted penis or even a full-bodied young woman with real human hair who could be taken apart like a Matryoshka doll to demonstrate proper autopsy procedure; they had it and I snapped a vacation like slide show with my phone.
I would spend the usual 3 to 5 hours in the library until close. Surrounded by books on female abortionists, collections of epitaphs, or even copies of The Necronomicon sitting right in front of interesting pieces like a 1980’s Teen suicide note. Or a funerary card featuring his classic Flock Of Seagull’s hair cut; they quite literally almost always had to force me to leave. Had it been up to me, I would have stayed and browsed until becoming one of the exhibits myself.
While the loss of this location is one of the biggest bummers I can imagine concerning Museum closings over the years; it serves as an important reminder: Often our favorite places need help staying open.
I highly doubt you’re visiting H&M for a soul shaking, incredibly inspiring, artistic experience, but I’m pretty positive you’re spending more than $8 a visit there.
Whether it’s by donation or even via gift shop or event; it’s important to remember these places don’t grow as organically as say, a health food store in a gentrified neighborhood. They are few and far between; special spaces that make our cities the unique and irreplaceable places they are and need to remain. Let’s do our best to support them.
You can find more information on The Order Of The Good Death and museums, programs, events and lectures that support it here or on the movement’s facebook page. Also, continue visiting the Morbid Anatomy blog for other locations sure to blow your mind like The Mutter Museum in Philadelphia.
I only see one more event on their calendar. A death Café slated for tomorrow, January 3rd, 2017. I‘m pretty sure it’s canceled but I will show up in the rain and gloom anyway, my black umbrella poised to the sky while my eyes hang down towards the ground in the most timeless and sacred of traditions; a funeral for the celebration of funerals. Accompanied by the all too human hope that I am witnessing the start of a transition instead of the end of something I once held dear.