The Morbid Anatomy Library
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Macabre Curiousities and Ephemera
If you walk down formerly industrial streets and passed empty lots and questionable auto shops in Brooklyn's Gowanus neighborhood, you'll find Proteus Gowanus, an interdisciplinary arts organization dedicated to creating an alternative arts environment “designed to stimulate the creative process.” Within this warren of shared art spaces, tucked right in the center, is a room stuffed to the gills with oddments, artifacts and reliquaries time forgot. Not by Joanna Eberstein, founder and director of the Morbid Anatomy Library, though. Closer to a "closet" than a "library" (at least in the grandest sense of the latter), Morbid Anatomy is chock-a-block full with shelves of catalogs, books, photographs, taxidermy and curiousities with ties to anatomical art, the history of medicine, death and society, medical museums, natural history, and arcane media. The macabre collection, privately owned by Eberstein, is an exploration of “the interstices of art and medicine, death and culture” and is open to the public, though appointments are encouraged. Morbid Anatomy as a space invites deeper dissection into its material (medical journals with early photography of bizarrely distended organs, for instance) but its real value lies in its various workshops, contextualizing bits of the collection or otherwise bringing to light rituals, traditions, and cultural practices as they pertain to the library’s mission.
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