The Morbid Anatomy Museum started as a blog in 2007 by Joanna Ebenstein, an artist and historian of the weird. Ebenstein and her associates began cataloging odd relics, toys, medical curiosities, and other offbeat items of interest in the Morbid Anatomy Library, a small space in South Brooklyn open to the public.The Morbid Anatomy Library started hosting lectures and workshops in taxidermy, post-mortem photography, mail-order porn, 18th century Italian anatomical waxes, Victorian hair art, and more. It attracted a vibrant community of artists and collectors, and it soon outgrew its quarters. Ebenstein launched a $60,000 Kickstarter campaign in order to subsidize the move into a three-floor space nearby and came out with $76,013.
The Museum reopened on Friday night with the inaugural "Art of Mourning" exhibition, showing items related to mourning culture from the 18th to 20th centuries including postmortem paintings and photography, hair art, death masks, and mourning china. Local artists, musicians, and fans of the unconventional showed up to share wine, cheese, and funerary-themed desserts as they browsed the exhibit and had photos taken with their favorite spirit in a "spirit photo booth."
Many of the items on display are unlabeled; Ebenstein likes it that way. "I like to experience the aesthetic and the feeling of it," she tells The Verge, without "imposing too much."
The Museum includes everything from mummified cat heads to antique bottles of Valerian extract, to daguerreotypes and paintings owned by the writer and collector Stanley Burns, who loaned some items from The Burns Archive. The uniting theme is "forgotten history," Ebenstein says. "What does it say about us that we didn't know this existed?"