Once caught in the crossfire of COVID-19 closure, the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia – this city’s internationally renowned 150 plus year-old space dedicated to medical condition exhibitions and philosophical discourse – has opened its doors on South 22nd Street, to normal hours and safely distanced perusing. That it will eventually do so (he’s retiring in 2021) without the aid, urging and ideology of its boss George M. Wohlreich, who took over running the College of Physicians of Philadelphia 15 years ago is a shame. Wohlreich was crucial in turning the College’s museum into something modern and pop, especially with much-hyped exhibitions such as “Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia.”
One thing that Wohlreich was/is big on is music – late-night Monday live chamber concerts in one of the Mütter’s grand halls, from both members of the Philadelphia Orchestra along with local doctors and lawyers who can saw with a both with the best of them. The College’s annual masked Mütter Ball too has become the place for great goth music programming courtesy Dancing Ferret Inc.
The Mütter’s live music showcases may be silenced for now, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make merry, you know, in a maudlin, melancholy manner. That’s what’s so cool about “Midnight Service: A This & That Tapes Benefit for Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.”
Put together by Joe Carlough from This & That Tapes – the East Falls, Philly native who runs the zine press Displaced Snail and a zine library show space in his living room – this July, the idea came to him while making a mixtape. With the Murder City Devils song “Midnight Service at the Mütter Museum” deep in his heart (and his friendship with Murder City Devils main man Spencer Moody in full swing since 2018 when they put out a poetry collection together), the two joined forces to benefit the Mütter with a mixtape and a freshly produced zine.
“At first I thought the compilation should be Philly-centric, but as I began to widen my scope, an interesting thing happened,” writes Carlough on his website. “Artists from all over the country began telling me about their visits to the museum. “We were on tour,” they’d say, “and had to check out the museum we heard about in that song.” Or “So-and-so told us that if you have an extra day in Philly, you need to get to the Mütter!” It made me realize that the Mütter isn’t just for us in Philly. It belongs to the world. I can’t put it better than Spencer already has in the song: “It’s for the curious, it’s for the hopeful.”
With that, “Midnight Service: A This & That Tapes Benefit for Mütter Museum” (really a digital download) features music and art that “address the topics of science, health, and medicinal progress”) and features contributors such as moonlighting artists Nancy Hill and Amy Martin of the Mütter Museum. All proceeds from the sales of both the cassette and the zine will go directly to the museum.