Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dresden, Part Two: The Hygiene Museum

A few hours before my bus home, my new Australian friends and I went to the Hygiene Museum. We bought our tickets and went downstairs to the sparkling white bathrooms. After we wondered how to get to the museum itself, but then it occurred to us that we were already at the first exhibit. In fact, we were part of the first exhibit.

Then we realized there was another floor or two. The museum was used by the Nazis as a tool to display eugenics propaganda during World War II. I suspect that “Hygiene” in German refers to the human body in general, because they weren’t displaying different kinds of toothpaste and anti-fungal creams. There were exhibitions of terrifying dentist chairs with enlightening German explanations of why they strap down your head, nauseating plaster models of various autoimmune diseases, and human figures with visible internal organs.

There were many times when a comprehensive explanation would have been very welcome. At one station I strapped lab goggles full of honey cones over my eyes and asked myself, “Does this simulate life in a beehive?” Nearby you could weave your body into a contorting pair of stilts or find out what it is like to write wearing a lumpy glove. We strapped enormous brushes to our feet and skated around the room with our beehive goggles and wondered if we were just helping the museum save money on maintenance work.

On retrospect it is clear that the skates were meant to simulate brushfoot, a crippling disorder for which modernity has provided us with an invaluable vaccination. Remember when they used to send people with brushfoot to live on an island?

One of the most interesting rooms was devoted to human sexuality. It was there that I first discovered that I am not sexually attracted to the scent of beavers. There was a video game that simulated sex using Mexicans with names like Pedro and Maria and awkward metaphors involving mountain climbing. I was perplexed by a marble statue of a nude woman reclining that was accompanied by a smaller model. The smaller model had a sign with a hand that indicated that I should touch it. I did, but nothing happened.

The hygiene museum concluded predictably with a room full of old hairbrushes, and I left noticing that I was so bewitched that I had not given myself quite enough time to catch my bus home to Prague.

You can read about my other Dresden adventures here.

1 comment:

  1. Nice way to decorate your walls. I have never done that. My effort to beautify the walls in my house was to order big-sized canvas prints from wahooart.com, from images of western art. I use the same angel motifs in all of the rooms painted by different painters, such as this one by very interesting English artist Stanley Spencer, http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LT7K6