CLOSE
The Mütter Museum
The Mütter Museum

6 Things To See at the Mütter Museum’s New Skin Exhibit

The Mütter Museum
The Mütter Museum

Our skin is our largest organ, and one of our most defining: It plays a key role both in how others see us and how we see and display ourselves. A new exhibit at Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, "Our Finest Clothing: A Layered History of Our Skin," offers a selection of medical and cultural objects that encourage visitors to think about skin in new ways. “I decided I wanted to take a broader view of our skin,” Mütter Museum curator Anna Dhody says. “So instead of focusing on the ‘ology’ of our skin and only talking about dermatology and everything that can go wrong with our skin … we discuss the physical structure of skin, the artistic and cultural aspects of skin, and yes, we do discuss dermatology and skin pathologies.” With that in mind, here’s a selection of intriguing (and generally not-for-the-squeamish) objects on display.

1. WAX MOULAGES OF SKIN DISEASES

An arm with smallpox 

Photos are one thing, but for 19th-century physicians trying to diagnose medical conditions, 3D wax models were the gold standard. The Mütter’s exhibit includes wax moulages showing skin cancer, smallpox, gangrene, leprosy, hives, and a giant carbuncle on a thorax, among other afflictions. One model also shows an arm with erysipelas, a burning skin infection also known as St. Anthony’s Fire, while several show the horrifying effects of syphilis in its various stages, as it eats away at skin and bone. “It’s really something to see what syphilis can do to a face,” Exhibitions Manager Evi Numen says. 

While the moulages might seem like little more than horrifying props now, they’re not only useful to doctors of the past—for medical students and physicians of today, these studies in wax are often the closest they’ll come to seeing antiquated diseases, as well as conditions that are now rarely allowed to progress as far as they have in these models.

2. PRESERVED EARLY 20TH CENTURY TATTOOS

Watercolor of an arm infected with syphilis after a tattoo. 

The exhibit includes several tattoos—and their associated swatches of human flesh—depicting religious and patriotic images, as well as less-expected graphics such as a clown and a tombstone. (Although the exhibit includes five tattoos, the selection on display rotates.) Though their precise origin is unknown, all were originally part of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s collection. The vintage ink can be seen alongside information about Otzi the Iceman—the ancient mummified man whose 61 tattoos are the earliest preserved on a human—as well as a watercolor of an arm infected with syphilis after a tattooing session (above).

3. A MODEL OF A WOMAN WITH A HORN.

Madame Dimanch 

Of all the reasons to consider yourself lucky, include the fact that you didn’t wake up this morning with a giant horn growing out of your forehead. Madame Dimanch, a 19th-century Parisian widow, wasn’t so fortunate: She suffered from a unique type of growth called a cornu cutaneum, which looks like a horn but is actually an overgrowth of the same keratinous stuff that forms hair and nails. Madame Dimanche had small “horns” all over her body, but by her 80th birthday the one on her forehead had reached an unmanageable 10 inches, and she was convinced to have it removed. The surgery was successful, despite the lack of both anesthetics and antibiotics. 

You can see Madame Dimanche’s skull and horn at the Museum Dupuytren in Paris—the object at the Mütter is a wax model, although it’s displayed next to another 20-centimeter-long “horn” removed from a 70-year-old woman. The Dimanche model is one of the original objects collected by Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter, the 19th-century surgeon who founded the museum.

4. A JAR OF SKIN

For some people, this jar alone might be reason to avoid the exhibit after lunch. A few years ago, Dhody received a donation from a woman suffering from dermatillomania (a skin-picking disorder): two Trader Joe’s jars filled with skin the woman had picked from her feet. 

“The jar of picked human skin is so interesting because it is the physical manifestation of an impulse control disorder,” Dhody says. “It is hard, sometimes, to show an anatomical/physical example of a mental disorder to the public in a way that engages and stimulates them to learn more about it. This jar of skin grabs people’s attention and they stop and read the label and learn about this disorder and how it affects people’s lives.” The jar on display is actually the second one the woman donated, and it sounds like there’s more to come. 

5. ILLUSTRATIONS FROM DERMATOLOGY’S FOUNDATIONAL MODERN TEXT

The exhibit includes several images from English physician Dr. Robert Willan’s On Cutaneous Diseases. While people have been attempting to diagnose and treat skin diseases for millennia, dermatology as a modern field is only about 200 years old. Willan is considered a pioneer in the field, and his book was a landmark text, with a classificatory system and detailed plates that proved highly influential to other physicians on both sides of the Atlantic. It also proves that Willan must have had a pretty strong stomach. 

6. SKIN CANCER SLIDES FROM THE MUSEUM DIRECTOR’S NOSE

During a medical screening a few years ago, Mütter Museum Director Robert Hicks discovered he had a common type of skin cancer, a basal cell carcinoma, on his nose. (He blames his years of exposure to the Arizona sun and his fair-skinned complexion.) Hicks successfully underwent Mohs micrographic surgery—in which very thin sections of tissue are removed until no more cancer is found—and the museum now has some microscopic slides from the procedure. Display text alongside the slides notes that Hicks is lucky to be alive now: Before the surgery was introduced during the 20th century, “the cancer might have gradually spread and destroyed much of his face.”

All images provided by the Mütter Museum.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Hulu
arrow
entertainment
10 Things We Know About The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2
Hulu
Hulu

Though Hulu has been producing original content for more than five years now, 2017 turned out to be a banner year for the streaming network with the debut of The Handmaid’s Tale on April 26, 2017. The dystopian drama, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, imagines a future in which a theocratic regime known as Gilead has taken over the United States and enslaved fertile women so that the group’s most powerful couples can procreate.

If it all sounds rather bleak, that’s because it is—but it’s also one of the most impressive new series to arrive in years (as evidenced by the slew of awards it has won, including eight Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards). Fortunately, fans left wanting more don’t have that much longer to wait, as season two will premiere on Hulu in April. In the meantime, here’s everything we know about The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season.

1. IT WILL PREMIERE WITH TWO EPISODES.

When The Handmaid’s Tale returns on April 25, 2018, Hulu will release the first two of its 13 new episodes on premiere night, then drop another new episode every Wednesday.

2. MARGARET ATWOOD WILL CONTINUE TO HELP SHAPE THE NARRATIVE.

Fans of Atwood’s novel who didn’t like that season one went beyond the original source material are in for some more disappointment in season two, as the narrative will again go beyond the scope of what Atwood covered. But creator/showrunner Bruce Miller doesn’t necessarily agree with the criticism they received in season one.

“People talk about how we're beyond the book, but we're not really," Miller told Newsweek. "The book starts, then jumps 200 years with an academic discussion at the end of it, about what's happened in those intervening 200 years. We're not going beyond the novel. We're just covering territory [Atwood] covered quickly, a bit more slowly.”

Even more importantly, Miller's got Atwood on his side. The author serves as a consulting producer on the show, and the title isn’t an honorary one. For Miller, Atwood’s input is essential to shaping the show, particularly as it veers off into new territories. And they were already thinking about season two while shooting season one. “Margaret and I had started to talk about the shape of season two halfway through the first [season],” he told Entertainment Weekly.

In fact, Miller said that when he first began working on the show, he sketched out a full 10 seasons worth of storylines. “That’s what you have to do when you’re taking on a project like this,” he said.

3. MOTHERHOOD WILL BE A CENTRAL THEME.

As with season one, motherhood is a key theme in the series. And June/Offred’s pregnancy will be one of the main plotlines. “So much of [Season 2] is about motherhood,” Elisabeth Moss said during the Television Critics Association press tour. “Bruce and I always talked about the impending birth of this child that’s growing inside her as a bit of a ticking time bomb, and the complications of that are really wonderful to explore. It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby, but she’s having it potentially in this world that she may not want to bring it into. And then, you know, if she does have the baby, the baby gets taken away from her and she can’t be its mother. So, obviously, it’s very complicated and makes for good drama. But, it’s a very big part of this season, and it gets bigger and bigger as the show goes on.”

4. THE RESISTANCE IS COMING.

Just because June is pregnant, don’t expect her to sit on the sidelines as the resistance to Gilead continues. “There is more than one way to resist," Moss said. “There is resistance within [June], and that is a big part of this season.”

5. WE’LL GET TO SEE THE COLONIES.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

Miller, understandably, isn’t eager to share too many details about the new season. “I’m not being cagey!” he swore to Entertainment Weekly. “I just want the viewers to experience it for themselves!” What he did confirm is that the new season will bring us to the colonies—reportedly in episode two—and show what life is like for those who have been sent there.

It will also delve further into what life is like for the refugees who managed to escape Gilead, like Luke and Moira.

6. MARISA TOMEI WILL APPEAR IN AN EPISODE.

Though she won’t be a regular cast member, Miller recently announced that Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will make a guest appearance in the new season’s second episode. Yes, the one that will show us the Colonies. In fact, that’s where we’ll meet her; Tomei is playing the wife of a Commander.

7. WE’LL LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF GILEAD.

As a group shrouded in secrecy, we still don’t know much about how and where Gilead began. That will change a bit in season two. When discussing some of the questions viewers will have answered, executive producer Warren Littlefield promised that, "How did Gilead come about? How did this happen?” would be two of them. “We get to follow the historical creation of this world,” he said.

8. THERE WILL BE AT LEAST ONE HANDMAID FUNERAL.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

While Miller wouldn’t talk about who the handmaids are mourning in a teaser shot from season two that shows a handmaid’s funeral, he was excited to talk about creating the look for the scene. “Everything from the design of their costumes to the way they look is so chilling,” Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “These scenes that are so beautiful, while set in such a terrible place, provide the kind of contrast that makes me happy.”

9. ELISABETH MOSS SAYS THE TONE WILL BE DARKER.

Like season one, Miller says that The Handmaid’s Tale's second season will again balance its darker, dystopian themes with glimpses of hopefulness. “I think the first season had very difficult things, and very hopeful things, and I think this season is exactly the same way,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “There come some surprising moments of real hope and victory, and strength, that come from surprising places.”

Moss, however, has a different opinion. “It's a dark season,” she told reporters at TCA. “I would say arguably it's darker than Season 1—if that's possible.”

10. IT WILL ALSO BE BLOODIER.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

When pressed about how the teaser images for the new season seemed to feature a lot of blood, Miller conceded: “Oh gosh, yeah. There may be a little more blood this season.”

nextArticle.image_alt|e
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
arrow
technology
Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios