The Congress for Curious People, in Conjunction with The Coney Island Museum

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Presented by Observatory and Morbid Anatomy at and with The Coney Island Museum
Date: Saturday April 17th and Sunday April 18th
* Location: Coney Island Museum, 1208 Surf Ave. Brooklyn (please note changed location!)
ADMISSION: $25 for full weekend admission

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The Congress for Curious People is a 2-day symposium exploring education and spectacle, collectors of curiosities, historical fairground displays and more, in conjunction with The Coney Island Museum. The symposium will feature panels of humanities scholars discussing with the audience the intricacies of collecting, the history of ethnographic display, the interface of spectacle and education, and the politics of bodily display in the amusement parks, museums, and fairs of the Western world. Also on view in the museum will be “The Collector’s Cabinet,” an installation of astounding artifacts held in private collections. In conjunction with the events at the Coney Island Museum, Observatory’s Gallery space will host “The Secret Museum,” an exhibition exploring the poetics of hidden, untouched and curious collections from around the world.

The Congress for Curious People will serve as an academic counterpoint to Coney Island’s Congress of Curious Peoples, which Coney Island USA has convened since 2007 at Sideshows by the Seashore. In the past, the Congress has included performances by artists like Joe Coleman and Harley Newman, feats of strength, and world-record breaking attempts, among others. You can find out more about the Congress of Curious Peoples at

April 17th
11 AM-12:30 PM – Education and Spectacle in 19th and 20th Century Amusements, Lectures and Panel Discussion

Eva Åhrén
, author of
Death, Modernity, and the Body : Sweden 1870-1940
Andrea Stulman Dennett,
author of
Weird and Wonderful: The Dime Museum in America
Amy Herzog
, author of
Dreams of Difference, Songs of the Same: The Musical Moment in Film
Kathy Maher
, Executive Director of the
Barnum Museum
Moderated by Betsy Bradley, New York Public Library


2-3:30 PM Cabinets of Curiosity: Collecting Curiosities in the 21st Century, Lectures and Panel Discussion
Joe Coleman, collector and artist
Johnny Fox, collector, performer, founder of The Freakatorium
Evan Michelson
, Antique and Oddity Dealer,
Obscura Antiques and Oddities and Morbid Anatomy Library scholar in residence
Melissa Milgrom
, author of Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy
Mike Zohn
, Antique and Oddity Dealer,
Obscura Antiques and Oddities
Moderated by Aaron Beebe, Director of
the Coney Island Museum

4-5:30 PMFreaks and Monsters: The Politics of Bodily Display, Lectures and Panel Discussion
Mike Chemers, author of Staging Stigma: A Critical History of the American Freak Show
Nadja Durbach
, author of Spectacle of Deformity: Freak Shows and Modern British Culture

Michael Sappol
, Historian of the National Library of Medicine and author of A Traffic of Dead Bodies: Anatomy and Embodied Social Identity in Nineteenth-Century America

Moderated by Jennifer Miller, Bearded Lady and founder of Circus Amok

6-8 PM Drinks and light fare

April 18th
PM A History of Cultural Display in World’s Fairs and Sideshows, Lectures and Panel Discussion
Lucian Gomoll, University of California at Santa Cruz
Alison Griffiths, author of Wondrous Difference: Cinema, Anthropology, and Turn of the Century Visual Culture
Barbara Mathé, Archivist, American Museum of Natural History
Moderated by Aaron Glass, author of The Totem Pole: An Intercultural Biography and In Search of the Hamat’sa: A Tale of Headhunting

2 PM – Closing remarks

3 PM - Film Screening
Bontoc Eulogy by Marlon Fuentes


The Saddest Object in the World
An Illustrated Meditation by Evan Michelson, Obscura Antiques and Oddities, Morbid Anatomy Library Scholar in residence
Date: Monday, April 12th
Time: 7:00 PM
LOCATION: * Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn

A Rogue’s Approach to Stuffing It: Taxidermy in Contemporary Pop, Art and Sub-Cultures
Robert Marbury of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists
Date: Tuesday, April 13th
Time: 7:00 PM
LOCATION: * Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn

A Brief History of Automata
An Illustrated Lecture and Demonstration by Mike Zohn, Obscura Antiques and Oddities
Date: Wednesday, April 14th
Time: 7:00 PM
LOCATION: * Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn

A History of Taxidermy: Art, Science and Bad Taste
An Illustrated Presentation By Dr. Pat Morris, Royal Holloway, University of London
Date: Thursday, April 15th
Time: 7:00 PM
LOCATION: * Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn

Charles Wilson Peale and the Birth of the American Museum
An Illustrated Presentation by Samuel Strong Dunlap, PhD, Descendant of Charles Wilson Peale
Date: Friday, April 16th
Time: 7:00 PM
LOCATION: * Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn

The Secret Museum
An exhibition exploring the poetics of hidden, untouched and curious collections from around the world in photographs and artifacts, by Joanna Ebenstein, co-founder of Observatory and creator of Morbid Anatomy.
Location: Observatory
Opening Party: Saturday, April 10, 7-10; on view On view from April 10th-May 16th, 3-6 Thursday and Friday, 12-6 Saturday and Sunday
Admission: Free
The Collectors Cabinet
An exhibition which will showcase astounding objects held in private collections, including artifacts featured in Joanna Ebenstein’s Private Cabinet photo series of 2009. Featured cabinetists include Curious Expeditions and Observatory’s Michelle Enemark and Dylan Thuras, Obscura Antiques and Oddities, and Morbid Anatomy and Observatory’s Joanna Ebenstein.
LOCATION: * Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn
On view Friday April 10-Sunday April 18th

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