When considering what to showcase for the new “Uniquely Philadelphia” feature in Smart Business Philadelphia, the Mütter Museum instantly came to mind. It’s known worldwide and certainly has many items that can be considered unique.
But, as Communications Director J. Nathan Bazzel is quick to point out, the Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia is much more than a collection of oddities that attracts curiosity seekers.
“People assume that there’s one type of person that comes to the museum. And nothing could be further from the truth,” Bazzel says.
Sharing the human experience
Not everyone has an interest in art, so some people wouldn’t want to visit an art museum. But everyone has an interest in what it means to be human, he says.
“That’s what the museum is about. It’s not about the macabre. Yes, it’s about medicine. But more so, it’s about what it means to be human,” Bazzel says.
Plenty of celebrities have been among the museum’s visitors and Bazzel shared some of what they considered to be the top attractions.
“Teller, of Penn and Teller, would probably tell you it was the Hyrtl skulls, while Penn Jillette would probably say the giant. Anthony Bourdain was very attracted to the giant colon,” he says. “That’s the thing — when people visit, they bring their own life experiences with them.”
Attendance at the Mütter Museum has grown to 140,000 visitors annually, which Bazzel says is the result of being accessible and letting the public know it exists.
That includes a YouTube channel that has more than 4,000 subscribers, making it more popular than The Louvre’s and on par with the British Museum.
“We also have more views than the Guggenheim in New York. So we’re very active on social media. People can connect with us from anywhere in the world. And not just connect with our words, but they can view our collections,” he says.
The museum has been featured on television, as well as in The New York Times, USA Today and The Washington Post.
“I don’t know of any news agency that has not, in some way, covered something here at the Mütter Museum,” Bazzel says.
Furthering medical science
As fascinating as it is to see a plaster death cast of conjoined twins Chang and Eng or the tallest skeleton on display in North America, the Mütter Museum hasn’t strayed from its original purpose of advancing the cause of health.
Bazzel says the importance of that mission has only increased as health care has grown to encompass 19 percent of the gross domestic product.
“It’s probably going to be at 21, 22 percent pretty soon. So we all have an interest in health care. Part of the interest of the museum is how far we have come in health, and how what used to be considered untreatable is now handled routinely,” Bazzel says.
“Who knows, maybe someone will walk out of here and take a little better care of themselves. That might help lower our GDP.” ●
Roger Vozar is associate editor at Smart Business Philadelphia. If you have an interesting story to share about a person or business making a difference in Philadelphia, please sent an email to [email protected].