Date of Award

Fall 12-13-2010

Degree Type



Art and Design

First Advisor

Maria P. Gindhart


During the nineteenth century, museums dedicated to the collection, preservation, and display of human anatomy became familiar institutions in America and Europe. The anatomical museum operated under one of two guises: popular museums run as commercial establishments, or medical museums attached to a professional medical society or college. Over the course of the century, the medical establishment sought to cement its authority over anatomy by legitimating its expertise through specialized training. Doctors criticized commercial anatomical museums, which were eventually closed under accusations of obscenity, yet there was considerable overlap in the types of objects on display at both museums. This paper examines how the medical museum was permitted to supersede its commercial cousin and explores the exhibitionary narratives at the sites of both types of institutions.


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