Katie Innamorato and Divya Anantharaman at Anatharaman's home
On the upper floor of the nearby medical and anatomical oddities mecca that is the Mütter Museum, volumes of leather-bound books rest on wooden shelves between thick, cascading curtains and old sconces, the walls covered in vintage portraiture. It’s a striking space, so much so that it has become a popular wedding venue for the alt-bride set. (Unsurprisingly, Angemi herself was married there, and has the institution’s telltale “ü” inked on her body.) Perched on plush furniture in the back room are staffers Evi Numen, Emily Snedden-Yates, and Meredith Sellers, waxing poetic on how one comes to find her calling among a plethora of diseased and deformed organs preserved in fluid, and some 3,000-plus human bones.
All three women come from a fine arts background with specialties ranging from sculpture and ceramics to photography to drawing and painting, but their personal interests in mortality and the corporeal seem to stem from equal parts nature and nurture. “I was the weird kid that looked through the encyclopedia under the ‘anatomy’ entry for hours,” reminisces Numen, who serves as the exhibits manager and designer, but will soon move on to pursue work as what she calls a “death midwife” (which I’m told is someone who facilitates a dignified end of life through compassion, comfort, and general help). Snedden-Yates, special assistant to the museum’s director, comes from a line of physicians, and thus was raised to be comfortable around the human body’s potential maladies, deformities, and ultimate fallibility. “[Growing up] I watched my dad perform surgery—I held a hip bone in my hand,” she recalls. For arts program coordinator Sellers (who also works as the programs assistant for the center for education and public outreach), death is something she came to know at a young age: “My father died of cancer when I was 14. I wonder sometimes if that has anything to do with why I’m here or why this stuff interests me. I’d like to think I’d be able to separate that, but....” She trails off.