Morbid Anatomy Comes to San Francisco

Vanitas Figure, probably 18th C Europe, In the Medicine Man Hall, Caption following

At first glance, Morbid Anatomy seems like the perfect Halloween blog, except for some of us — and especially for photographer Joanna Ebenstein — Halloween is every day on her beautiful, macabre blog. And we’re not complaining; her incredible ongoing collection of anatomical/medical documentation and curiosities through history is stunning. It’s like when going to the doctor was more dangerous than whatever afflicted you, but safely tucked in a museum instead of becoming your fate. For her next project, she’s traveling the world seeking private collections to photograph and tells me she’ll be in San Francisco later this month looking for items of the body to photograph and add to the visual virtual encyclopedia anatomica she’s creating.

Lieden Anatomical Theatre, Museum Boerhaave

Morbid Anatomy is more than just a creepy-ookey blog about dead stuff and medical strangeness of yore; it’s also where Ebenstein blogs about 21st century artists creating work that reflects Victorian body-preservation fetishes, and maintains an incredible travel journal. Imagine going to every private and public cabinet of curiosities you can imagine, and she’s doing just that, but also documenting her experiences. It’s difficult not to be agog (and a little jealous) when Ebenstein visits places like The Cuming Museum, where an eclectic family collection is on display consisting of over 25,000 objects from the 1800s, including “…paper ephemera, games, scientific equipment, Egyptiana, taxidermy, fossils, archeological fakes, royal memorabilia, and curiosities of all sorts.”

Hearse Design

Brooklyn-based, dead-stuff obsessed Ebenstein began by developing a photo exhibition called Anatomical Theatre: Depictions of The Body, Disease, and Death in Medical Museums of the Western World, a photographic survey of artifacts held in great medical museums of Europe and the United States.

Prosthetics in the Medicine Man Hall

Morbid Anatomy became the blog component of that project, then grew an undead life of its own and inspired her current project where she’s Seeking Collectors of Medical Curiosities, Ephemera, or Artifacts. The focus this time is items in private, rather than public collections. She tells us, “If any of you out there have collections that you think might be of interest, or know of anyone else who might, I would love to hear from you. All leads appreciated! All locations considered!”

19th C Anatomical Venus, Unknown Modeller and Workshop, Museu d'Història de la Medicina de Catalunya

Yes, all orientations of totally creepy and slightly nightmare-inducing are welcome. If you’re in the Bay Area and have something beautiful and dead or medical you think Joanna Ebenstein might want to photograph, she’ll be here October 20-25 and is looking for collections of medical curiosities, ephemera, and artifacts to photograph. And if you still can’t get enough of Morbid Anatomy, view the complete collections of her photos on her Flickr photostream (astropop).