This unintentionally macabre shrine to medicine is my pick for the weirdest tourist attraction in town. Not for the faint of stomach, it occupies a historic 1917 Gold Coast mansion designed by the noted architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, who modeled it after Le Petit Trianon at Versailles. Displayed throughout its four floors are surgical instruments, paintings, and sculptures depicting the history of surgery and healing practices in Eastern and Western civilizations (it's run by the International College of Surgeons). The exhibits are old-fashioned (no interactive computer displays here), but that's part of the museum's odd appeal.
You'll look at your doctor in a whole new way after viewing the trepanned skulls excavated from an ancient tomb in Peru. The accompanying tools bored holes in patients' skulls, a horrific practice thought to release the evil spirits causing their illness (some skulls show signs of new bone growth, meaning that some lucky headache-sufferers actually survived the low-tech surgery). There are also battlefield amputation kits, a working iron-lung machine in the polio exhibit, and oddities such as a stethoscope designed to be transported inside a top hat. Other attractions include an apothecary shop and dentist's office (ca. 1900) re-created in a historic street exhibit, and the hyperbolically titled Hall of Immortals, a sculpture gallery depicting 12 historic figures in medicine from Hippocrates to Madame Curie. Allow 1 hour.
- © Frommer's 2013
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