The ever-renewed curiosity for the macabre collections of the Museum of Human Beings in Bogota


Mummies, fetuses, brains… The institution, which is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary, presents a collection of 500 fragments of human anatomy.

Deformed foetuses, dissected brain or even mummified bust: the museum of the human being of Bogotá houses treasures of human anatomy, between scientific interest and horror. On a squalid street in the Santa Fe district, a hub of drug trafficking and prostitution located on the outskirts of the center of the Colombian capital, Melba Leon, 62, welcomes visitors to the old two-story house of her father, the doctor Alfredo Leon, founder of the museum in 1973. Supported by a group of scientists, he recovered from researchers and medical universities the 500 pieces, most of them human, half of which are on display today.

A cabinet of curiosities that has become the largest collection in the country according to its director, who transmits with passion to visitors, medical students or simply curious, the story of these deaths. A place tothe confluence” between the “graveyard spiritsof Bogota (located just behind the museum), the neighborhoodterriblein which it is located andbody energies“Explains Malba Leon under his white blouse. As a result, when visitors enter the rooms with their mobile phones or take photos, “the positive electromagnetism of bodies“interferes with devices”electronegative“. “The light bulbs flicker” and “the whole house is shaking“says Ms. Leon.

Effects of drugs or inbreeding

That day, the spirits are calm. About twenty nursing students came to visit this cave of Ali Baba of human anatomy. Four female students remain glued to the body of a two-headed Siamese baby. “It’s crazy how the body is able to deform, to mutateexclaims one of them, before the small group begins to debate how to separate them.

Next to it, deformed fetuses about fifteen centimeters tall are displayed on a shelf. The ribs stand out, the small arms are spread in all directions, the lower half of the body gives way to a heap of bloody viscera. Their little faces are desperate. Some seem to be screaming at the top of their lungs. These malformations have their origin in the drug or alcohol consumption of their mother, or because of their consanguinity, explains the guide in a professorial tone. The bodies have been mummified for seventy years for some. But here, no strips: after having removed their fat, the bodies or the fetuses are coated with various chemicals which allow them to be preserved.

The highlight of the visit, half of a skull immersed in formalin reveals all the details of the brain of a middle-aged man. “This is where everyone passes out“Warns Malba Leon. Next to this anatomy museum in Bogota, many corpse exhibits are held all over the world, such as Body Worlds, the most visited traveling exhibition in the world. In 2019, a Chinese exhibition of the same type entitled Bodies: The Exhibition had stopped in Bogota. In France as in other countries, these traveling exhibitions of human corpses for commercial purposes are prohibited, in particular because of the dubious origin of the corpses sold by Chinese companies.



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