Black and white photograph of a woman in a lab coat ascending an iron staircase in a dimly lit space

By Nikki Johnson

Photographer Nikki Johnson was given free rein to explore these restricted areas and create images of objects, specimens, and spaces that intrigued her. The result of her work is Unseen

The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia has attracted people interested in pathology, morbid anatomy, and human development since its opening in 1859. However, even repeat visitors may be unaware that only a fraction of the museum’s collection of 35,000 objects and specimens is on display at any given time; the remainder is hidden away in storage rooms that are scattered around the building and closed to the public. Some of the specimens are not displayed because they have a similar pathology to items already shown. Others are fragile or need extensive conservation. The collection grew over the years as items were acquired from other, defunct institutions, the personal collections of retired physicians, or occasionally via donation from private individuals.