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The display of dead bodies is not a practice confined to morgues and funeral homes. Anatomy museums around the world showcase preserved corpses in service of education and medical advancement, but they are little-known and have been largely hidden from the public eye. In this book, Elizabeth Hallam investigates the anatomy museum and how it reveals the fascination and fears that surround the dead body in Western societies. Hallam explores the history of these museums and how they operate in the current cultural environment. Their regulated access increasingly clashes with evolving public mores regarding the taboos surrounding the exposed body, as demonstrated by the internationally popularity of the Body Worlds exhibition. The book examines such related topics as artistic works that employ the images of dead bodies and body parts and the larger ongoing debate over the disposal of corpses. Issues such as aesthetics and science, organ and body donations for medicine and public education, and the dead body in Western religion and ritual are also discussed here in fascinating depth. Anatomy Museumprovides a cultural and historical perspective on the controversial and emotive practices that render the dead body visible in contemporary Western societies. Moreover, it dares to investigate the techniques of preservation, display and visual representation that hold the dead within the social and cultural spaces of the living.
Elizabeth Hallam is director of Cultural History at the University of Aberdeen. She is also the coauthor of Beyond the Body: Death and Social Identity and Death, Memory and Material Culture.