By Oren Liebermann
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Ever wanted your very own human skull? Now’s your chance!
Each human skull on the walls of the Mutter Museum in Center City has its own story. Like Hasar, who died at 21 of typhus. Or a shoemaker, who died at 15 of smallpox.
The museum at the College of Physicians has 139 of these stories from collector Dr. Joseph Hyrtle, who studied their characteristics.
And now you can call one your own.
“Everyone has an interest in what it means to be human, and that is what this is a collection of,” says J. Nathan Bazzel, Director of Communications at the museum.
Some of the skulls are nearly 200 years old, so to help pay for the upkeep, visitors are now allowed to sponsor a skull for $200. They pick their favorite story, like a tight rope walker who died when he broke his neck, and then they get their name on the display.
“Every single specimen, whether we know it or do not know it, has a story,” says Evi Numen, the museum’s Exhibitions Director.
Conserving the skulls requires a delicate touch, an incredible amount of patience and, more importantly, time and money, so that modern doctors around the world are able to learn from this collection.
“A university in Canada was able to extract viable DNA of cholera from 150 years ago, and that can be lifesaving in medical research today and in the future,” Bazzel says.
There are other noteworthy exhibits at the museum, like a piece of Albert Einstein’s brain or soft tissue from the neck of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. But these are entirely the museum’s. As for the skulls, you can make them partly yours while also helping to preserve a story for science.
To sponsor a skull, visit the museum’s website at: www.collegeofphysicians.org/mutter-museum/collections