The Science Behind the “Sideshow” with the Mütter Museum

In the 19th Century, individuals born with differences were often subjected to harsh treatment in their communities, and occasionally hired as circus sideshow performers. Performers like the “Siamese Twins” Chang and Eng, may have toured around the world, but we now know that they often faced unfair treatment and biases from their families, employers, and communities.

The word sideshow is now considered to be a pejorative descriptive phrase that was part of our 18th and 19th century vernacular, but we can choose to acknowledge the word use in the context of our shared history and with the understanding that to refer derisively to these parts of a circus act is no longer appropriate.

Join us for a look back in history with Marcy Engleman, Educator at the renowned Mütter Museum, to discover the scientific reasons behind their differences that made them the “stars” of the circus sideshow.

America’s finest museum of medical history, the Mütter Museum displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a 19th-century “cabinet museum” setting. The museum helps the public understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and to appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Please Note: This program contains sensitive themes, presented within a historical and scientific context. It is not suitable for young patrons.

FREE! Registration is required. This is a virtual program via ZOOM. Participants will receive a link to the meeting via email once they have registered.