Exquisite Corpses Etching Workshop: Drypoint Edition

A few weekends ago, a number of students crowded around a display of books in our historical medical library as Historical Medical Librarian Beth Lander spoke. The books ranged from the Renaissance to the 1850’s, and were all filled with astoundingly beautiful medical illustrations. Beth went from book to book, elucidating the various manuscripts and placing them in context of their history and importance to medicine. The students were there to cut them apart. Well, not the actual books, but photocopies of the illustrations in them. This was all part of a class in tandem with Second State Press called Exquisite Corpses Etching Workshop: Drypoint.

After we had spent an hour poring over the minute details of the illustrations in these antique books, students ventured into the classroom, where a spread of the photocopies lay across two 6 foot tables. Students chose a handful of images and went to work cutting them apart and gluing them onto paper, reassembling, abstracting, and creating inspired collages.


Printmaker Lauren Pakradooni from Second State then passed out sheets of plexiglass. Students placed the plexi plates on top of their collages and traced them, digging and etching into the plates with a sharp pointed tool called a scribe. Lauren described the techniques one could use to create marks and make tonal value, including cross-hatching, stippling, and scratching with sandpaper.

On Sunday, students came to Second State Press where they inked their incomplete plates and did test prints to see how their initial etchings were coming out. After reviewing how the various techniques looked once printed, students worked back into their plates, completing their etchings and running them through the press, with terrific results!

IMG_1472 (1)




IMG_1481 (1)



IMG_1489 (1)


IMG_1486 (1)


Be sure to check our Events page for upcoming arts events – we are holding another session of our 8-week specimen drawing course, Drawing Anatomical Anomalies in September and October, as well as an interactive performance of Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, followed by cocktails and a conversation about tuberculosis in Poe’s life and works on October 4th.

CEPI Curiosities: FOP and Harry Eastlack

CEPI Curiosities: Tales from Medical History's Strange Side

Hello, fellow histori-medico-philes, Kevin here for another installment of CEPI Curiosities. This time around, we have another by Paul, our diligent Karabots Junior Fellows intern. You may recall in our last issue, Paul wrote about the famous “Siamese Twins,” Chang and Eng Bunker. Let’s see what he has in store for us this time.

Take it away Paul!

Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP) is a disorder where muscle tissue and connective tissue such as tendons and ligaments are replaced by bone (ossified), forming bone outside the skeleton (extra-skeleton) that constrains movement. The process of FOP is usually noticed in early childhood, with unusually big toes and and short thumbs. FOP usually starts from the neck on down and is a slow and painful disease.


Eastlack at age of 13

The extra skeleton formed by FOP causes a loss of mobility in the limbs as they become affected. FOP may cause problems eating and speaking due to the extra skeleton immobilizing the jaw bone. Over time, people with this disorder may suffer from malnutrition (lack of proper nutrition) due to the eating problem. This disorder also causes difficulty breathing with another rib cage forming around the rib cage, compacting the heart and lungs. It is very common for someone with FOP to become paralyzed.


Eastlack ribcage

Approximately 1 in 2 million people is diagnosed with FOP. Only 800 cases have been confirmed around the globe and 285 in the United States. FOP is often mistaken for cancer. Unlike most diseases, surgery only makes the condition worse.

One notable person with FOP was Harry Eastlack who was born in November 1933 in Philadelphia, PA. At age 5, he broke his left leg while playing with his sister. There were complications with the fracture, which did not set properly. A couple years later, his hip and knee stiffened and bone growths began to develop on the muscles of his thigh. The condition spread to other parts of his body, ossifying his tendons and muscle and fusing his joints. When Harry turned 20 he became paralyzed and his body had completely fused together from his vertebrae. Harry died in November 1973,


Skeleton of Harry Eastlake

FOP is one of the rarest, most disabling genetic conditions known to medicine. No  medical therapy is known for FOP. The University of Oxford and the University of Pennsylvania are currently the two main FOP research institutes; however, others around the world are also looking for a cure. It is said that gene therapy such as  bisphosphonates and corticosteroids are the hope for FOP.

For more information on Harry Eastlack and his disease visit his site in the Mütter Museum located on 19 S 22nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19103.






African Girls in America

This blog entry is by two of our interns who worked with us as part of the WorkReady Program run by the Philadelphia Youth Network.

My name is Adunia. I am from Eritrea and I came to the United States in 2009 at the age of 11. I am a rising senior at Paul Robeson High School of Human Services. I love to interact with people but most people think I’m quiet. Back home I was always out playing games no matter how hot it is. Here, I stay inside more and listen to my music. My life in Eritrea was much more social. When I came to U.S everything was different: the people, the culture, the language. People in the USA are more diverse and more open, which means you can talk more freely. This country is more liberal, you can be gay, wear anything you want and do what you like and there is freedom of speech. I love helping others and hearing people’s thoughts. What I love the most about home is our culture. In our culture community is really important and that’s why I like it. The President of Eritrea is Isaias Afwerki; he is the reason my family fled to Shimelba, a refugee camp in Ethiopia. We were rescued by the United Nations, who brought my family to Philadelphia.

Binta and Adunia, two students from the Teva Pharmaceuticals Internship Program, pose in front of the main label for the Penn Museum's "Imagine Africa" exhibit

Binta and Adunia at the Penn Museum’s Imagine Africa exhibit.

My name is Binta. I’m also a Paul Robeson High School student. I moved to Philadelphia from Guinea in June 2013 and started school the same year. I was excited and nervous at the same time. And then an unimaginable thing happened; I was inappropriately touched at school by a boy in the lunchroom at Bartram High School. He was only suspended for a week. I was able to change to a different high school that was much better for me and made a lot of great friends who have a similar background to me. After the incident my opinion about living in America changed and I felt less positive about the move. I still miss my life in Guinea a lot and I would love to go home and visit. However, I like the diversity in this country and the sense of freedom. I’m very grateful for the opportunities I have been given.

We both been working this summer as Work Ready interns at the Mütter Museum. We are planning an after-school club for students that come from different countries like us. Our mission is to make every student feel at safe and at home, create positive relationships, and help them succeed at school and in life.

Reflections on Our Trip to the Barnes Foundation

Philadelphia youth from CEPI's Karabots Junior Fellows Program and Teva Pharmaceutivals Internship Program pose in front of the entrance to the Barnes Foundation

~ “Art therapy can be especially beneficial to children as younger people are usually less capable and less comfortable expressing themselves via words.” – I ❤️ Art Therapy.

Recently, several of CEPI’s interns from our various youth programs took a trip to the Barnes Foundation to explore the site’s unique art galleries and contemplate the relationship between health and art. Sheila and Honesty, two of our Karabots Junior Fellows who took the trip, are here to share their experiences:

(Sheila:) On our trip to the gallery, we saw a lot of cool art that we never even imagined could exist. Before, I never really took art seriously; I literally just thought of it as beautiful pictures used for decoration. Going to this trip changed my mind completely, I learned that art can be seen through so many different perspectives. For every image, there is a story behind it. Just like a sigh, a person can just sigh and you can ask yourself “Is everything OK with them?,” but behind every sigh there’s a story. A person can be tired, angry or maybe they can’t take it anymore. We all see it differently.

(Honesty:) Medicine is also a kind of art. It takes time to perfect an art and it takes time to perfect one’s medical skills. Research has also shown that art can be therapeutic.  Art can be used as a form of therapy for people who find it hard to express themselves or have other mental disorders such as anxiety, dyslexia, or depression. Overall, art can be very powerful and connects to many things in life. It is another way for everyone to tell their story, have a conversation, or express themselves in ways others wouldn’t be able to.

CEPI Curiosities: Bonded by Livers and Love: The Chang and Eng Story

CEPI Curiosities: Tales from Medical History's Strange Side

Hello, fellow historio-medico afficionadnos, and welcome to another installment of CEPI Curiosities, CEPI’s closer look at medicine’s disturbingly informative past. I’m happy to announce the next few articles come from a special guest author. Paul Robbins, a student in our Karabots Junior Fellows Program, has conducted research on some of his favorite specimens in the Mütter Museum (regular readers will recall another student in the Karabots Program, Vashon Chapman, provided us with an article last week on the differences between venoms and poisons). Today, Paul has chosen to write on the lives and times of Chang and Eng Bunker.

The floor is yours, Paul!

Chang and Eng were the “Original Siamese Twins.” They were conjoined twins born in Siam, which is now Thailand, on May 11, 1811. They enjoyed their heyday and international popularity as human wonders.

Chang and Eng were bonded together by 4-5 inch piece of flesh and joined by their livers. This specific type of conjoined twins is considered Xiphopagus, a form of Omphalopagus. Omphalopagus is a connection from the breastbone to the hip (pagus is a latin word meaning “That which is fixed” or “That which is stuck”). Only 4% of twins are diagnosed with omphalopagus.

Image of the lives of Chang and Eng

Image of the lives of Chang and Eng

The brothers were discovered in 1829, swimming in a pool, by a Scottish merchant named Robert Hunter. After seeing that amazing sight, Hunter asked the twins’ parents for a permit to take the boys and put them in a circus to show them off to the world on a world tour. After multiple years of touring with Robert Hunter, the boys realized how famous they were and split off the contract with Hunter and went into the circus business representing themselves. A couple years later while touring the United States, the twins became attracted to an area in North Carolina and purchased a piece of land there where they met their wives: Sarah Ann and Adelaide Yates. After marrying the two (unjoined) sisters, Chang and Eng quit their circus act to settle down and live normal lives with their wives and 21 children.

Image of Chang and Eng and their families

The twins’ lives became extremely complicated when the Civil War broke out. The loss of Chang’s two daughters forced Chang to become a heavy drinker. Eng never drank, nor did he share the effect of Chang’s drunkenness. The Bunker twins also lost a lot of money. Ruined, aged, and bitter at age 54 years old, Chang and Eng had no other option but to go back into the circus.

Unfortunately their return attempt caused a lot of problems. Chang and Eng were no longer novel. To attract an audience they had an idea to bring two of their normal children on the tour as an exhibit. The idea worked for a short amount of time, but the audience viewed the Bunker brothers as “physically damaged.” After a few years of touring the United States their sight started to decline due to their health. Chang was partially deaf and weakened by alcohol.

In 1868, the twins accepted P.T. Barnum’s offer to tour Europe and he made a  request for them to get surgically separated. Chang and Eng had no need nor want to separate and refused Barnum’s request. To the twins, just the thought of becoming separated was taboo, but it became clear that two aging connected bodies would become an exhausting problem in the future. Towards the end of their lives Chang and Eng became obsessed with the idea of separation, scared that one would have to carry around his brother’s corpse. Scared, tired and frustrated, the twins began to grow tired of each other and began arguing a lot. Soon after their conflict began, Chang had a stroke that paralyzed his lower body. Tired of dragging his brother around, Eng traveled to Philadelphia, begging and pleading local doctors to split them. Chang and Eng’s wives feared that the separation would be too risky and dangerous and talked Chang and Eng out of the separation. Several months later, when Chang and Eng’s problems were at an all-time high, the same doctors that were supposed to split them were called to their house to confirm their deaths.  On January 17, 1874, Chang died of a stroke and three hours later his brother Eng died of a heart attack. Their last request was to be buried together.

Death cast of Chang and Eng Bunker,The Mütter Museum

Death cast of Chang and Eng Bunker,The Mütter Museum

Until next time, catch you on the strange side!