Recently we had the honor of presenting a Keynote speech at the World Oddities Expo in Philadelphia. We gave two lectures about the history of the medical bone trade, and were delighted to interface with the public and share our thoughts about the trade and moving forward with preserving history. Typically we give this lecture in our showroom in New York, and having the opportunity to reach others who cannot reach our physical location was a gift. Being recognized as an educator alongside fellow experts in fields such as taxidermy and museum preservation was deeply moving to us. 

Jon Pichaya Ferry & Masha Potemkin visiting a vendor at the World Oddities Expo

The World Oddities Expo is a traveling exposition of artisans, performers, and educators all interested in the oddities field. “Oddities” is a broad term that tends to include taxidermy, bones, medical memorabilia, vintage horror ephemera, and many other “unique” interests. While JonsBones primarily works within the medical education sector, the World Oddities Expo provides an excellent opportunity to interface with people who do not have access to exclusive academic circles. 

When we first arrived, my team and I made a point to visit every booth on the floor. You can watch our video showcasing all the incredible vendors we spoke to here. Then it came time to give our first lecture!

Jon Pichaya Ferry displaying various medical skulls during his lecture.

During the talk, we spoke about the history of the medical bone trade, and discussed the problems surrounding the industry, fielded questions, and traded possible solutions. In our talk Jon touched on the early days of medical education, the challenges that early doctors faced in learning anatomy from a political and legal perspective, and how this evolved into a globalized industry, and the subsequent antique and resale market that evolved. This industry underwent many phases, and we were able to share photos, catalogs, and other primary sources detailing this trajectory. On the second day we gave our second presentation, and got to interface with even more curious folks.  

Q&A portion of the lecture

Overall, the energy of our participants was inquisitive, thoughtful, and productive. The medical bone trade is a history fraught with difficult quandaries, and the more people who are aware of its origins, the more we can come together to discuss long-term solutions that prioritize education, preservation, and empathy. Discussing this history is one of our favorite activities, and sharing our research with others is always a joy. I am very grateful to Adam Hutter, the CEO of the World Oddities Expo for inviting me to speak! If you’re curious about attending a W.O.E. event near you, you can visit their website here for more information!