Morbid Anatomy Museum: See Taxidermy, Skulls in Brooklyn
Unfortunately, this museum closed in 2016.
Perhaps more than any other place, New York City is home to some seriously offbeat museums. There are culture spots dedicated to gangsters, toys, trolls and sex, so why not death? As a Goth mom who wears as many skulls as my pink-clad kid does bows, I had been dying to check out Brooklyn's Morbid Anatomy Museum & Library ever since we mentioned its opening in a news post back in July. Inspired by the Halloween season, my daughter and I finally made it there, and it wasn't at all what I expected—mostly in a good way.
Housed in a three-floor building that includes a gift shop, cafe and hands-on library, Morbid Anatomy showcases death-themed artifacts from a wide variety of cultures and eras. And yet, it's not macabre. There are no body parts or anything gross or terrifying. Instead, it's a great way to get older kids (I'd say ages 8 and up) to start thinking about mortality without completely freaking them out.
Though not aimed at families, the museum does host occasional kids' programming, including anatomy drawing workshops and holiday fetes, like this Sunday's FREE children's Halloween party. I can't think of a more appropriate place to celebrate!
The Morbid Anatomy Museum is located in a former nightclub in the artsy and industrial neighborhood of Gowanus, Brooklyn. It grew out of creative director Joanna Ebenstein's private collection of books and artifacts (The New York Times did a great in-depth article about the museum's beginnings). The first floor houses the light-filled cafe and gift shop, which includes books about death, photos of intricate taxidermy displays, animal tails (all taken from roadkill!), skull pillows and other dark curios.
It costs $10 for anyone ages 13 and up to access the second floor, which houses the "museum," a modest one-room gallery for temporary exhibits. The inaugural show, The Art of Mourning, is on view through Thursday, December 4 and features some cool items that my daughter and I were quite taken with, like spirit photography and Victorian mourning hair jewelry. But for most kids, the best part of Morbid Anatomy is probably the small hands-on library in the back. Here, visitors of all ages are welcome to pick up skulls, taxidermy animals (including a two-headed chick) and research books, and get up close with death masks, preserved specimens and many other wild items. My nine-year-old was fascinated by a lot of it; the only thing that upset her was a mummified cat head (even I found it kind of icky). If you ever find yourself wondering what, exactly, you're looking at, knowledgeable docents are on hand to solve any mysteries.
Since the museum is pretty tiny, involves a lot of reading and costs $10 for grown-ups, it's best for families to visit on a day when it's hosting a special kids' event. And there's a great one coming up this Sunday, October 26: a children's Halloween party featuring a costume contest, creepy eats, a wet specimen workshop, readings by YA authors Tonya Hurley (Ghostgirl) and Micol Ostow (Amity), and trick-or-treating throughout the building. The celebration is FREE but an RSVP is required. I spoke at length with the education director, and she said the museum plans to ramp up its kids' programming come winter with readings and workshops so check the calendar for upcoming family events. I realize Morbid Anatomy won't appeal to every person's taste, but for those of us who wish Halloween lasted all year-round, it's a dark dream come true.
The Morbid Anatomy Museum is located at 424 Third Avenue at 7th Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn. It's open noon to 6pm every day except Tuesday. Admission is $10 for adults, free for children under 13.
Find out about other cool exhibits for kids in our Museum Guide.