Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Siriraj Museum

Today marks five years since the multiple medical museums of the Siriraj Hospital in Thailand were combined into a single large museum. The individual museums that compose the Siriraj Medical Museum, include one dealing with parasitology as well as one specializing in forensic science. The Siriraj's forensics exhibits include a number of macabre items on display; including a severed head that has been cross-sectioned to show the path of a bullet that was fired into it. The most infamous display in the museum is the corpse of See Uey Sae Ung. See Uey was a cannibalistic serial child murderer during the 1940s. The killer, whose crimes have turned him into a legendary bogeyman for the children of Thailand, stands in a state of mummification inside a glass display cabinet, with his face pressed grotesquely right against the glass.

The museum's staff is so dedicated that a few of them continue to work there even in death. The founder of the forensic museum, Songkran Niyomsane, continues to teach medical students in this manner; his skeleton presides over the museum from its own display. Thai medical students who study at the museum often leave gifts at displays containing human remains as form of gratitude for being provided the opportunity to learn. It is common practice for the students to refer to the remains on display respectfully as “Head-Master.”

Pay a visit to the Siriraj Museum to learn more from the “Head-Masters” in residence.

-Tom G

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