JonsBones has always been dedicated to expanding public knowledge and understanding of the medical bone trade, and the human body. We do this by conducting our own historical research, giving tours and lectures, making our education page freely accessible, and visiting medical collections globally to provide our readers with access to collections they may not be physically close to. One of our favorite of these collection visits is to the Skulls Unlimited facilities and the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma.
Ever since I was a kid, I have been obsessed with animal articulation. It became my goal to visit the Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma City. Founded as an offshoot of Skulls Unlimited International Inc, The Museum of Osteology houses over 400 articulated skeletons and other various specimens. Opening in 2010, this museum demonstrates the through-lines that carry through vertebrate anatomy, and many exotic species.
The founder, Jay Villemarette has long been a personal hero. Starting as a hobbyist and developing his passion into a business in 1986 with his wife cleaning specimens in their kitchen, to now a business with multiple employees and a huge processing space. Getting to know Jay as a peer and fellow osteology enthusiast has been one of the greatest joys of my professional career.
Last year I was lucky enough to finally make the trip down to Oklahoma and see the museum, the processing facilities, and Jay’s personal collection. Jay has worked with many zoos, museums, and individuals looking to skeletonize their remains. Accepting his invitation was a no-brainer. When we first arrived at their space, we were greeted by Jay and his team personally. Being led through the museum in a personalized tour, I was able to appreciate the care and thought that goes into curating such a project. The Museum of Osteology could easily overwhelm the viewer with hundreds of examples of each species, such is the access to bones that Skulls Unlimited has, but instead they choose a carefully curated selection of species to tell a story of evolution, natural selection, and specialization.
The museum has sectioned exhibits, supplemented by lectures and tours. Whether you are looking for an overview of animal groups like marsupials and carnivores, or information about environmental influence on evolution, or an overview of forensic anthropology, the museum has you covered!
We also got to meet the resident museum cat, Sir Indiana Bones, guardian of the collection and all around good boy.
Throughout the tour, Jay and I got to talk shop about the industry, his process of skeletonization and articulation, pieces in his collection, and any number of subjects two bone-nerds could geek out over. In Jay’s personal collection in the back-room of the facilities, I got to see examples of hydrocephaly, femurs with hip replacements, and many examples of rare pathologies and deformities. While Jay’s collection spans most species, my interest and expertise lies mostly in human osteology, so we focused mostly on the human pieces.
Talking with Jay and seeing his business and museum, one can clearly see the care he puts into preserving his collection, and treating every piece with the respect and care it deserves. He is an incredible example of what this industry should be, and it was an honor to get to see him and his collection in all of their glory.
For more about Skeletons: Museum of Osteology, you can visit their website and watch our youtube video about our visit!