The Cabinet of Death: Tales of Conservation & Storage from the Mütter Abditory

Using the example of the Mütter Museum, this webinar will cover important information for anyone who oversees a collection that contains human remains, natural history collections, medical models or casts, instrumentation, or chemicals/pharmaceuticals. Located in Philadelphia, the Mütter Museum, founded in 1863 by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, contains a collection of medical specimens, anatomical and pathological specimens, wax models, and antique medical equipment.

This webinar will look at the how the Museum has upgraded the storage and preservation of its important and particular collections to meet 21st century standards. What are the “unique” storage issues inherent in a medical museum’s collection and what needs to be considered when dealing with human remains and medical specimens – no matter what kind of institution? What are the hazards? What are the opportunities? What needs to be considered to protect specimens and maintain their importance for study and education?


Anna DhodyAnna N, Dhody, MFS, an experienced forensic anthropologist, is the curator of the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia where she oversees the Museum’s “disturbingly informative” collection, and works to provide a unique, illuminating experience for its 175,000-plus annual visitors. In addition to being the Museum’s curator, since 2014, she has served as the Director of the Mütter Institute, the research arm of the Museum. During her tenure at the Mütter Museum, Ms. Dhody has curated many exhibits and she has also collaborated with scholars from around the world to conduct research on the Mütter’s collection. One of her main goals is to show that a 19th century collection can have 21st century relevance, academically, medically and artistically.

Before joining the Mütter, Dhody served as an osteologist at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. In 2003, she was involved with the United Nations Development Programme and the Public Ministry of Peru, identifying some of the estimated 69,000 Desaparecidos, “the disappeared,” victims of state terrorism. Her book, “The Underground Crime Scene: The Use of Archaeological Excavation Techniques in the Recovery of Buried Crime Scene Evidence,” is currently used by law enforcement agencies in several countries. She has advised other institutions on the creation of medical museums in Barbados and Texas. She is a consultant for the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office, conducting forensic anthropological analysis. And, if all that isn’t enough, she has done a large number of informative videos using the collections, including the series, Guess What’s on the Curator’s Desk and the Mütter Minute.

Recorded: Thursday, March 22, 2018
Duration: 1 Hour 47 minutes


Cabinet of Death PowerPoint Slides


Trailing Questions-Cabinet of Death Webinar


A New Human Skull Mount Design


Preserving Dr C. Jackson’s Legacy


Conservation steps – Wet Specimen preparation