In case you didn’t notice, today is October 31. Does that ring a bell? Lightning in the sky, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the thundering laughs of witches, pumpkins... Yes, we are celebrating Halloween today! As you are surely too old to go door-to-door and make threats for treats, we suggesting an alternative activity: visit museums!
If you imagine visits to the SFMOMA and its disturbing pieces of contemporary art or the Louvre and its mummies, you are actually quite mistaken: the visits we are suggesting here are off the beaten path and have purely scientific purposes… Yet, beware: reality sometimes offer surprises for which you’d better have a strong stomach.
Selection of Museums in San Francisco:
Although I am based in Paris, I spared a thought for the members of the team in San Francisco and all the new things they may want to visit there for Halloween. Bay Area people, this selection is for you!
CC Wikimedia Commons
This is a rather general and broad hands-on science museum. During your visit, you can, for example, see powerful bolts of lightning produced, a sliced brain, or explore tunnels, corridors and slopes with only your sense of touch in the Tactile Dome. Terrifying for the claustrophobics!
San Francisco, CA 94111
Museum of Vision
This museum traces the history of ophthalmology, form the 3rd century BC to today, with case studies, tools, illustrations… When you get out of there, my bet is that you’ll be happy to live in the 21st century!
655 Beach Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
CC Wikimedia Commons
The East Bay Vivarium & The Bohart Museum of Entomology
You like all sorts of creepie-crawlies, with zero to many legs? Here are two places you won’t want to miss: the Bohart Museum and its collection of over seven million insects and the Vivarium, where you can meet all kinds of snakes, lizards, frogs and other tarantulas. In other words, if you are rather keen on kittens and dwarf ponies, just do not go there.
University of California
1124 Academic Surge
Davis, CA 95616
1827-C 5th Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
The Zymoglyphic Museum
If you always dreamed of visiting a cabinet of curiosities, the Zymoglyphic Museum is the place to go! Bizarre marine fauna and flora, primitive statues and bewildering machines are waiting for you there. Did you say “disturbing”?
19 Cilver Ct
San Mateo, CA 94403
Selection of Museums in Paris:
In order to fulfil this scientific Halloween mission, I threw myself into the exploration of the Musée Fragonard in Maisons-Alfort, a close suburb of Paris. This museum, one of the oldest in France, contains veterinary and medical subjects of study dating from the 18th century.
If, in the entrance, the place looks completely reasonable, with its rows of skulls of different species, we nonetheless advise you not to go there just after lunch: skeletons of foetuses, anatomical abnormalities, digestive system casts and formaldehyde jars are waiting for you there. Notice the obsolete and delicious “monster” appellation for all human or non-human individuals suffering grave anatomical malformations. You are in 1766, indeed!
In order to make your mouth water – or, rather, ruin your appetite – here is a selection of photographs:
Foetus’ and newborns’ skeletons, CC BY Audrey Risser
Horse’s stomach cast, bon appétit! CC BY Audrey Risser
Cow foetus, CC BY Audrey Risser
Billy goat skeleton, CC BY Audrey Risser
Of course, many other oddities that we will not reveal here are waiting for you on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 2 pm to 6 pm in Maisons-Alfort: http://musee.vet-alfort.fr/
If the mere fact of talking about Paris’ suburbs is making you feel ill at ease, do not worry: Paris itself also contains wonderful science museums which are perfect for a successful Halloween:
Fœtus of siamese twins,Musée Dupuytren, CC Wikimedia Commons
Le Musée Dupuytren
More recent than the Musée Fragonard – it opened in 1835 – it has no reason to be jealous of it. Indeed, the Musée Dupuytren is also known as the “Museum of Anatomical Pathologies”. All at once, you are put in the right mood.
Japanese Acupuncture Model, CC Wikimedia Commons
Le Musée de l’Histoire de la Médecine
Certainly more suitable for general audiences than its two counterparts, this one contains medical and surgical instruments from Antiquity to the 19th century. There is nothing really frightening in itself, but after your visit, you may indeed prefer to be taken care of today rather than in the 19th century … Plus, you can start here to prepare yourself for the Musée Dupuytren, which is really close by!
Le Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de la Psychiatrie
Let’s go back to the suburbs to talk about the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de la Psychiatrie, in Neuilly-sur-Marne. This museum was created in the previous psychiatric asylum of Ville-Evrard and contains a collection of medical objects and tools, visual documents and accounts which tell the history of psychiatry, this recent and sometimes hazy field of medicine.
And you, what creepy, disturbing science museum do you advise us to visit next to where you live?