Strange Bones: Curiosities of the Human Skeleton, a popular exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Man, has been extended through March. As the curator of the exhibit, this is exciting because it means that people are enjoying the display and want to see it remain here longer. This is just the sort of thing I love to hear! The other thing that has made me happy about this exhibit is that people seem to learn a lot about human biological forces; and teaching our visitors about human skeletal biology is one of my main goals! For example, the other day I received an e-mail from a woman who had visited Strange Bones and “particularly enjoyed it.” She wrote that she deals with medical records all day and felt that she knew a lot about pathology, but that after viewing the exhibit “she learned the meaning of two words.” That made my day… in fact, it made my week!
Strange Bones is centered around the fact that the human skeleton is remarkable and adaptable, and highlights the many strange and curious things that happen to our bones. The exhibition displays examples of skeletal curiosities, bone remodeling (Wolff’s law of bone transfiguration), and adaptation. There are sections in the exhibit that include information on bone biology (“normal” bone growth and development), skeletal congenital anomalies (bone abnormalities that some people are born with), diseases that disfigure the skeleton, strange healing patterns of traumatic injuries, and cultural modifications of the skeleton and teeth.
It was so much fun working on this exhibit and going through our collections to choose the most appropriate – the most curious, if you will – specimens to display in Strange Bones. The Museum of Man has a world-renowned collection of skeletal pathology that we have highlighted in the exhibit; our skeletal collection is a treasure, and we feel honored to have the responsibility of caring for these specimens and keeping them safe in our laboratories. We also understand how important it is to share these treasures with our visitors and are happy to have the privilege of periodically displaying them. It is always wonderful to see our own collections on display in our beautiful Museum!
Although I will be sorry to see Strange Bones go in a few months, I hope that it has taught you, our visitors, about the amazing human skeleton. And I hope to put more of our wonderful osteology specimens on display soon!
Tori Randall, Curator of Physical Anthropology