The Paris Morgue

Amelia Soth at JSTOR Daily:

Behind a plate-glass window, framed by grand Doric columns, repose three bodies. Except for their leather loincloths, they are naked. From a pipe above each bed, a trickle of cold water runs down their faces. Their eyes are closed. They bear the marks of their deaths: one is swollen by drowning, one gashed by an industrial accident, another stabbed. A crowd of people gathers outside the window, staring at the bodies. This is the Paris Morgue, circa 1850.

Theoretically, the purpose of the display was to enlist public help in identifying unnamed corpses. But around the turn of the century, the morgue developed a reputation as a gruesome public spectacle, drawing huge crowds daily. The morgue was even listed in tourist guidebooks as one of the city’s unmissable attractions: Le Musée de la Mort.

more here.