Am I odd for being fascinated with a hundred-year-old autopsy room?

Or browsing through the dusty pages of a medical school‘s discharge book and noting where DECEASED was scrawled next to a handful of names? Or quietly pocketing a human skull and chatting with it on the way home?

That last bit’s a joke.  I couldn’t fit the skull in my pocket.  

If the first two interest you, then Indiana has a museum right up your alley. I found it on a quick search the day before visiting a friend in Indy.  Tucked at the bottom of the Google, I spied the creepy but comfortable charm of an antique brick building. The Indiana Medical History Museum.

When I saw this museum occupied the former pathology building of Indiana’s Central State Hospital, I had to see it.

Early the next afternoon, we pulled in next to a single, lonely hatchback, the only other car in the lot, and assumed the museum hours were off or, like many obscure destinations in the city, had simply shuttered its doors.  We were wrong. 

Inside, the building was spacious and strewn with a variety of artifacts from medical science before germ theory and aseptic surgery. The curator, a cheerful and knowledgeable woman, chirped a surprised greeting when we came through the door.  Apparently, we were the only ones to visit that day and we’d receive our own private tour of the museum. 

At this moment, two kinds of people are reading this: those that shudder at the thought of a walking two-hour lecture, and those that delight in it.  I delight, especially when that includes a stroll through the museum’s collection of anatomical specimens. 

After an informative rundown of the museum’s history in the stiff-chaired amphitheater, we studied the murky jars of body parts, long separated from owners: unusual tumors and defects, odd organs, preserved lab cultures, and hanging skeletons, all supplemented with images and stories of the building’s former purpose and tenants. 

Equally impressive to me were the care and craftsmanship of the tables, chairs and vestments of the museum.  No plastic here.  Only glass, sanded wood and metal. Everything shinedunder clean coats of wood varnish. Including the museum’s most fascinating exhibit, the autopsy room

You know, I had originally planned on leaving my impressions on the museum’s centerpiece, the former autopsy room.  But I won’t.  Instead, I’ll just say it made the two-hour drive and thirty dollars in gas an absolute bargain.

For more than that, you’ll just have to visit the museum for yourself. 

Oh, almost forgot…

Brains in yellowed formaldehyde jars from the museum’s collection.

Want to Know More? 

Here’s the Indiana Medical History Museum’s official website with hours and info.

If you’d like to know about the History of Medicine before your trip (which I recommend), here’s a link to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.