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Morbid Anatomy Museum Closes as 'Good Press Doesn't Pay the Rent'

By Leslie Albrecht | December 19, 2016 4:00pm
 Joanna Ebenstein, creative director of the Morbid Anatomy Museum. The museum closed in December 2016.
Joanna Ebenstein, creative director of the Morbid Anatomy Museum. The museum closed in December 2016.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

GOWANUS — The museum that celebrated death has gone to the great beyond.

The Museum of Morbid Anatomy has closed its doors after 2 1/2 years in business at 424 Third Ave. (at Seventh Street), board member Tonya Hurley announced on Facebook.

The museum opened in June 2014 with the mission of exploring the intersection of beauty and death and providing a home for "artifacts and ideas which fall between the cracks of high and low culture," the founders said.

Its offerings included monthly discussions about death and exhibits of taxidermied kittens at a wedding.

The New York Times chronicled author Anne Rice's visit to the museum earlier this month, but the fledgling institution was struggling then. The founders announced days later that they needed $75,000 to keep the museum's doors open, noting that "good press doesn't pay the rent."

The museum grew out of a blog, also called Morbid Anatomy, that was founded by historian Joanna Ebenstein in 2007. She amassed a library of curiosities (vintage books, skeletons, stuffed two-headed ducklings and the like) and kept them for a time in a small room inside Proteus Gowanus, another one-of-kind Gowanus organization that closed in 2015 after 10 years in business.

Ebenstein partnered with Tracy Hurley Martin to open the museum, which was funded with both private donations and grants from arts groups.

Ebenstein told DNAinfo New York in 2013 that she wanted to launch the museum because of the growing popularity of the macabre, but also to create a home for the unconventional in rapidly gentrifying Gowanus.

"Developers are literally knocking on people’s doors," Ebenstein said in 2013. "It's like the next land rush. I would like to put a foothold of quirky Brooklyn down before it's too late. … [The museum] is kind of my manifesto against the corporatization of the neighborhood."

News of the museum's closure was first reported by Bklyner. Ebenstein did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

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