Quentin Tarantino often takes liberties with history in his films, and his latest, Django Unchained, is no exception. But some aspects of the flick called for a bit of realism: For a scene where Leonardo DiCaptrio's character, Calvin Candie, saws off the top of a skull, the production turned to the Mütter Museum for help. Curator Anna Dhody sent the actor an instructional video, which you can watch below.
Dhody uses a saw from the 1850s and describes the proper technique, starting from the front of the skull and saving the back for last, because the occipital bone is "thick ... and if you're using a manual saw, it takes awhile [to cut through]."
It makes sense that the production would go to the Mütter for this information. The museum's collection began as a donation from Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter in 1858, and its initial purpose was medical research and teaching (Mütter was primarily interested in improving and reforming medical education). Today, the collection contains medical oddities, anatomical specimens, models, and antique equipment.
Why does DiCaprio's character need to saw open a skull? This is a spoiler-free zone, so you'll have to see Django to find out.