Museum of Dermalogical Casts

derm museum2The recent Journées du Patrimoine gave me the opportunity to visit a museum that had long been an unobtainable grail for me – the very private Musée des Moulages Dermatologiques (Museum of Dermatological Casts) within the walls of the Hôpital St Louis. An extraordinary experience, but certainly not one that I would recommend to everybody!

derm museum1The building dates from 1889 and was designed to house the growing collection of casts. The Hôpital St Louis was still on the periphery of the city and because of its self-sufficient autonomy had developed a world-renowned speciality in infectious skin diseases and afflictions. Three doctors were responsible for the creation of the museum. Alphonse Devergie donated his collection of paintings and drawings, but it was the doctors Fournier and Lailler who added the collection of casts. It is an institution which always had the intention of teaching and educating, and the two doctors believed that it would be more useful if the exhibits were three-dimensional.

derm3The sight that greets you as you push open the doors is remarkable. A rectangular room bordered on all four sides by a double level of wooden display cases housing literally thousands of casts. The earliest dates from 1867 and the most recent 1958, but all share a gruesome, realistic form. The collection includes full heads, mouths, tongues, noses (or lack of!), arms, feet…and more intimate parts of the body. Any unusual or exceptional skin disfunction was quickly captured by the team at the museum.

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