You hear about all sorts of collections of odd things and stuff, ranging from the tiny such as, stamps, coins, pens, to medium sized objects such as cameras, typewriters, lamps, to the much larger and extravagant items such as cars, motorbikes, antique furniture and whatever else may tickle the fancy of an individual. Collecting is a passion. Some jokingly call it organized hoarding. Whatever the case may be, we are all at liberty to treat ourselves to an interest that provides us amusement and leisure. How would you react, however, to a collection of brains? Real, gray matter that is, taken and preserved from human remains. Such a collection exists and it is a growing one that began over 30 years ago.
This odd collection was started by a medical pathologist from the Austin State Hospital. After routine autopsies were conducted on cadavers, some of the brains were preserved by him in bottles. The collection caused a stir in the 1980s as it sparked a dispute on which institution should be caretaker of the growing assortment of gray matter.
Adam Voorhes had the rare opportunity to photograph these human brains which are now under the stewardship of the University of Texas. The photographer from Austin, Texas found out about the collection after meeting Dr. Tim Schallert while working on an article for an issue of Scientific American magazine. Dr. Schallert, the story, goes asked Voorhes if he wanted to see more brains. Abnormal ones to be specific. From then on, Voorhes was hooked on the “mind matter.”
“Some of them are huge, some of them are really tiny. There was one that had no wrinkles at all,” he told Stan Alcorn, staff writer at Co.Exist “I don’t even know how to explain it.” After agreeing to some undisclosed rules, Voorhes was allowed to photograph the collection, spending a weekend in the brain lab shooting 230 photos over a two day weekend period.
The images taken by Voorhes will be featured in a book in a partnership with journalist Alex Hannaford. As for the brains, they are being 3-D scanned and examined by freshman students from the University of Texas.
See the brain matter in its many forms as photographed by Voorhes here.