100 years ago yesterday, an Australian soldier was shot in the face in the midst of World War I. Now, a century later, his skull is stirring up controversy right here in Philadelphia.
An article published Monday by The Guardian called attention to the fact that the skull of an unknown Australian soldier was on display at the Mutter Museum, a local collection of medical oddities. Philly.com reports that Lynda Voltz, Shadow Minister for Veterans Affairs in Australia’s Labor Party, is now calling for the skull to be returned.
The Mutter Museum itself released a statement Tuesday stating that it is “already in communication with the appropriate officials within the Australian Army regarding the cited specimen,” and that the matter is “being treated with the highest regard to protocol and precedent for such specimens.”
What an interesting thing to happen in our backyard. It comes less than since months after the body of notorious nineteenth-century serial killer H. H. Holmes was exhumed to test whether or not he was really buried in the grave in Delaware County bearing his name (it has since been confirmed that he was).
Strangeness aside, we do hope that the Mutter Museum and the Australian government are able to cooperate to determine the soldier’s identity. It may seem like the point is long moot, but that soldier’s descendants could very well be alive. We imagine that most people, if given the chance, would like to know what happened to the remains of their ancestors.
The Mutter Museum is a fine institution, and one of Philadelphia’s quirkiest and most unique attractions. While we hate to advocate for them losing an exhibit, we hope that they assist the Australian government however possible to perhaps provide the soldier’s family with some closure or insight into their history.
If you haven’t been to the Mutter Museum, we encourage you to go use your student discount and check it out. It’s just over the river on 22nd street. It’s unclear if the Australian soldier’s skull has been pulled from the display, but if you’re interested in viewing it, this may be your last chance before it’s gone.