Gretchen Worden, 56, director of the Mutter Museum,
who transformed a collection of sublime anatomical
medical oddities and history into a work of art that
spoke for itself, died Monday of respiratory failure at
Hahnemann University Hospital.
Before Ms. Worden's arrival in 1975, the Mutter
Museum was nothing more than an eccentric collection
that very few people knew about and even fewer visited.
Today, it is a true museum, drawing more than 60,000
visitors annually and enjoying a worldwide reputation. It
has a successful gift shop and is the subject of one of
the most unusual coffee-table books ever published.
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1. The Mutter Museum in Philadelphia
2. Lots of possibilities:
The Soap Lady
The Giant Colon
A cast of Cheng and Eng, the famous Siamese twins
A cast of a woman with a horn growing out of her head
and much more!
|If you enjoy our quizzes, don't forget to order our books!
Ms. Worden is survived by her
sisters, Jen and Ethelwyn, and
a brother, Dexter.
A memorial service is to be
held at 2 p.m. Sept. 12 at the
College of Physicians of
Philadelphia, 19 S. 22d St.
Memorial donations may be
sent to the college to the
preserve the Mutter Museum.
|Answer to Quiz #246
February 21, 2010
Obituary, Philadelphia Enquirer
Wednesday, August 4, 2004
AND their actual attached livers? Or the
Chevalier Jackson Collection of objects
swallowed and removed -- you don't say!
Brains of murderers and epileptics -- I
guess we could take a peek .
Perhaps the oddest attraction is the body
of the "Soap Woman." This is the body of
a woman who died of Yellow Fever
sometime in the 19th century and was
buried in soil with certain chemical
properties . . . that turned her into soap!
|First broadcast on November 25,
2001, this fascinating
documentary presents the
history of The College of
Physicians of Philadelphia and
the Mütter Museum. Highlights
include: the secret operation
performed on President Grover
Cleveland, Chang & Eng -- the
original Siamese Twins and
other conjoined twins, the Hyrtl
Skull Collection, trephination,
foot-binding, the megacolon,
Chevalier Jackson's collection
of "Foreign Bodies removed
from Air and Food Passages,"
congenital abnormalities and
much, much more! 48 minutes.
|Interesting Comment from Long Time Quizmaster Sherry Marshall
An accompanying display shows an x-ray cross-section and tells her story. A "Soap
Man," buried alongside the Soap Woman, is occasionally displayed at the Smithsonian
After every visit, our notebooks are brimming over. Here are some of the exhibits:
* Skeletons of a giant and a midget
* Broken bones
* Pott's Disease Skeletons
* Skull Collections, including the Muniz collection of trephinated (holes cut in them)
* "Brain Of A Murderer" - John Wilson hanged in Norristown, PA
* "Brains of epileptics"
* Longitudinal slices of the head, showing brain
* Brain of animals arranged from tiny frog to man, often with eyes attached
* Large collection of baby deformities.
* Hearing apparatti of mammals in butterfly collection-like cases.
* Photo of Lyndon Johnson lifting his shirt to show off his gall bladder operation scar
* Wax Renderings of Eye Disease Problems
* Iron Lung in the polio exhibit
|I have several books on
this museum as my cousin
was its director. So you
would also find a tribute to
my late cousin, Gretchen
Worden. My husband and
I just received an invitation
to the Mutter Ball.
N.B. Cool. Like totally.
Are you going? Is it a
costume ball? It must be
nice to have connections
to royalty. Q. Gen.
Ms. Worden brought energy and imagination to the staid museum at the College of
Physicians of Philadelphia.
Ms. Worden's understanding and enthusiasm for the pathological items - including
Chief Justice John Marshall's bladder stones; a tumor removed from President Grover
Cleveland's mouth; and the shared liver of the famous conjoined twins Chang and Eng -
enabled her to win friends for the museum.
"She transformed the Mutter from a collection of bones into a work of art that spoke
for itself," said Philadelphia-born comedian Teller. "It was still a serious academic
venture, and to serious students it really told you a lot about the history of medicine.
She welcomed other kinds of interest, though. For photographers and artists, it became
about the beauty and horror of nature."
Ms. Worden, who lived in the Art Museum area, did not find the specimens monstrous
but thought of them as having their own special and important stories to tell, displaying
them in ways that highlighted the tension between attraction and repulsion.
She encouraged photographers and artists to consider the collection's innate beauty.
The New York team of Gwen Akin and Allan Ludwig were among the first
photographers to do so. Their photographs, and others, were displayed in a calendar
she commissioned in 1992. The calendar sold its first run of 3,500 in a snap.
The appeal of the calendars led to the publication of Ms. Worden's best-selling book,
Mutter Museum. Science and art intersect in the 200-page work, holding the artistic
photographs of such renowned photographers as Steven Katzman, Rosamond Purcell
and William Wegman and historical photographs one would find in a medical text or a
Particularly striking are Katzman's snapshot of a skull showing the nerves and arteries
along with dried dahlias and Wegman's portrait of a weimaraner with a model of a
typhus-ridden foot and ankle.
"In most museums you go to look at objects," she wrote in the book's preface. "In the
Mutter Museum, sometimes the objects seem to be looking at you."
Ms. Worden worked her way up in the museum - the only place she ever worked - first
as curator in 1982 and finally as its director in 1988. She worked until a few weeks
before her death.
"It was the only job she ever wanted," recalls her cousin, Nina Tafel.
Ms. Worden's fascination with the weird began when she was a little girl growing up in
Media, where her family had settled after living in Shanghai, China, and Moncilieri, Italy.
She started collecting conjoined objects such as M&Ms and dolls, and odd or
suggestive food items, said her friend Janice Wilson Stridick.
As a young woman, she started collecting cow creamers, and as an adult she amassed
an international toilet-paper collection. She also collected model and stuffed rats.
She graduated from Penncrest High School in 1965, earned a bachelor's degree in
physical anthropology in 1970 from Temple University, and then set her eyes on
working at the Mutter Museum.
"She worked among the artifacts of death and had fun with it - it was perfect for her,"
said her friend Christine Ruggere, associate director of the Institute of History of
Medicine at Johns Hopkins University.
As the museum's reputation grew, so did hers. Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris
featured her story in his First Person television series; David Letterman invited her to be
on his show three times; and NPR's Terry Gross interviewed her for a Fresh Air
Ms. Worden had her life exactly the way she wanted it, Stridick said. "Although
Gretchen had many suitors over the years, she never married. She did not want to
compromise her independence."
|1. Where would you find this exhibited?
2. Give one other example of something you would find there.
The Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia promises -- and
delivers -- an afternoon of esoteric and incredible sights. The sophisticated,
high-ceilinged gallery that houses this collection of medical monstrosities helps us
rationalize our interest in it. Designed for perusal by present and future members of a
dignified overpaid profession, the museum is two floors of dark wood-trimmed display
cases with a library-like stateliness. Shouts of "Will ya look at this MONSTER BABY?"
are entirely inappropriate.
The Mütter Museum collection of pathological specimens is well-known in medical
circles, long ignored by the general public (though we may have contributed a bit to
raising current awareness). Where else can you see a plaster cast of Chang and Eng --
|Black and White Twins
|Check out another
Our Body: The Universe Within
Visitors to OUR BODY:
Visitors to OUR BODY: THE
UNIVERSE WITHIN will
journey through a fascinating
tour of the human body as a
whole, then taken through each
of the bodily system specimens
to see first hand how each
functions and also relates to all
the other systems. This
extraordinary exhibition was
designed to educate, enlighten,
and allow all who attend to
understand the complexities of
OUR BODY. Journey with us to
view actual human bodies and
specimens. Journey with us to
see the amazing specimens of
bones, blood vessels, nerves,
muscles, hearts, livers....all of
the human organs we all have.
See and learn about your
body...and how each system
supports the other.
|Comments from Our Readers
|Interesting Links for People Who Are Fascinated by Twins
|Mr. Rick and The Quiz Kids!
Tamura Jones Bill Utterback
Suzan Farris Karen Kay Bunting
Emily Rusk Linda Williams
Charles Grabs Edward Vielmetti
Robert W. Steinmann Jr. Betty Chambers
Mary South James Baker
Teresa Yu Wayne Douglas
Nicole Blank David Doucette
Sherry Marshall Beth Long
Carl Blessing Carol Phillips
Kevin Beeson Joshua Kreitzer
Donna Jolley Gerald Vanlandingham
Diane Burkett Mike Swierczewski
Nancy Lear Gary Sterne
Karen Petrus Ben Truwe
Jim Kiser Maureen O'Connor
Collier Smith Mike Dalton
Peter Norton Elaine C. Hebert
Milene Rawlinson Mike Dalton
Mary Osmar Dawn Colket
Yes that was one weird place... first I thought it might be the Smithsonian.... not sure I
would want to visit there....the Mutter place that is.... Linda Williams
IT'S MR RICK!!!!!....very funny-where is my grade book.
Mr. Rick and the Quiz Kids
The twin skeleton is scary. Being the father of twins, I know that it is a high risk
pregnancy. So many things can go wrong. Especially with identicals.
We were so happy that ours came out healthy (requiring complete bed rest the last 2
months), and they were still a month early.
When they were around 7, they were at the dentist for a checkup. They did a set of
x-rays. The dentist comes out and tells my wife that Megan had an extra tooth (top
jaw, front tooth, heading the wrong direction, up to the nose). My wife asked why
Nicole didn't have the same thing... because they are identical. He stops and says that
he hadn't looked at Nicole's x-ray yet. He pulled it out, looked at it and says... yup, she
has the exact same thing, expect on the other side. And adds, "They're mirror twins!".
I'd never heard that expression before.
The girls (now 15), had lots of things like that. Both started walking the same day,
both would have teeth starting to poke through the same day, and when they were
babies they would be sleeping in the exact same position. Evan Hindman
Very cool! I'd like to visit this museum someday. Nicole Blank
Hey, Colleen. Now you have me interested and I am sitting here taking the virtual tour
of the Mutter. As long as the boss does not get annoyed. Kevin Beeson
Bones, skulls, preserved specimens,wax models and dried corpse bits. Lewis and Clark
exhibit showing the medical hardships they endured. The Soap Lady who turned into
soap because of the conditions within the coffin. I know this is more than one but I
felt they were all worth mentioning. Donna Jolley
Ok, this quiz was truly weird... what kind of drugs were they giving you for that flu???
I'm not a big fan of the Macabre which, no doubt makes the Mutter a popular spot for
those who would enjoy "The Chainsaw Massacre" and Freddy Kruger.
I did learn a great deal about conjoined twins and a delightful pair of conjoined 19 year
old girls that live on a farm in Minnesota. Jim Kiser
Okay, this settles it: nature AND people are really bizarre. Peter Norton
Colleen, you did it again - I had NEVER heard of this place - VERY interesting!!
Elaine C. Hebert
Walking through the Mutter reminded me of when I watched The Rocky Horror
Picture Show (long after the film had acquired a reputation). I guess I'm shockproof,
like an old Timex. I'm supposed to be shocked, and all I can do is empathize.
The museum would be interesting to visit but disturbing at the same time. Medicine has
come a long way over the years. Milene Rawlinson
My brothers are identical twins. No one else can tell them apart but I don't think they
look that much alike. They had fun in school with that. They were studied in high
school for some University of Michigan study. Mother says when they were little, if
one got an owie, the other one would howl like he'd gotten hurt too. They also had their
own language when they were toddlers. I haven't heard of mirror-image twins but I'm
going to look it up. Mary South
Great quiz, as always. My 9 year daughter had a blast looking at pictures from the
Mutter, and since we live near Philly we can go - when she's older. Dawn Colket
|Congratulations to Our Winners
In 1858, Thomas Dent Mütter, retired Professor of Surgery at Jefferson Medical
College , presented his personal collection of unique anatomic and pathological materials
to The College of Physicians of Philadelphia . Our collection now boasts over 20,000
unforgettable objects. These include fluid-preserved anatomical and pathological
specimens; skeletal and dried specimens, medical instruments and apparati; anatomical
and pathological models in plaster, wax, papier-mâché, and plastic; memorabilia of
famous scientists and physicians; medical illustrations, photographs, prints, and
portraits. In addition, the museum offers changing exhibits on a variety of medical and
historical topics. The Mütter Museum is located in the Center City area of Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. For a fee one may personally view the museum.
The Mütter Museum is best known for the
Hyrtl Skull Collection and other anatomical
specimens including a wax model of a woman
with a horn growing out of her forehead; the
tallest skeleton on display in North America; a
nine-foot-long human colon that contained
over 40 pounds of fecal matter; and the body
of the Soap Lady, whose corpse turned itself
into a soapy substance called adipocere. Many
wax models from the early 19th century are on display as are numerous preserved
organs and body parts. The museum also hosts a collection of teratological specimens
(preserved human fetal specimens); a malignant tumor removed from President Grover
Cleveland's hard palate; the conjoined liver from the famous Siamese twins Chang and
Eng Bunker; a piece of tissue removed from the thorax of Abraham Lincoln's assassin,
John Wilkes Booth; and a section of the brain of Charles J. Guiteau.
|Lots of Mutter Museum