Matron of Morbidity

By Ella Rubeli & Joel Tozer | October 29, 2013

Elinor Wrobel, eighty, isn’t your typical collector. At home, rooms are filled with art, costumes and objects, but in the heart of Sydney, Australia, Elinor spends her days preserving hundreds of human body parts collected from the Sydney Hospital Morgue. The Morbid Anatomy museum, housed in Sydney Hospital, is lined with glass jars showing the disease and suffering of bygone generations.

A former nurse, art collector and curator, Elinor recovered the collection from a musty attic crawling with cockroaches and fought tooth and nail for the specimens to be restored and exhibited to the public. Several times, hospital administrators have sought to transfer the specimens elsewhere, or convert the museum into office spaces, but so far Wrobel has prevailed. She believes the hundreds of unique anatomical specimens from people dating back to the 1890s are not only an important resource for medical students, but also a “beautiful” reminder of our own mortality.

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Ella Rubeli is a photojournalist for theglobalmail.org. She was recently awarded the 2013 Young Walkley award for camerawork. You can follow her @edrubeli.

Joel Tozer is a journalist currently working on the Insight program on SBS television. He also contributes to a number of publications including The Guardian. You can follow him @jttozer.

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