Q & A with Evan Michelson

Matt Klypka/DCL

What's the oddest item most requested in the shop?

Lots of people want shrunken heads, mummy bits, two-headed animals, skeletons in coffins. We get requests for these things all the time. They are all odd, I suppose, in one way or another.

What's the highest price/oddest item you've ever sold?

We had a medically mummified human head much like the one we have in the shop now, and that sold for several thousand dollars. We had another early anatomical preservation of the head and neck that also sold for about the same amount. We've had several two-headed calves in a slightly lower price range.

We once had a collection of wax fun-house heads and another collection of diseased wax anatomical models that sold for a decent amount of money, too.

What item do you dream of finding?

I've always wanted a fine medieval reliquary, particularly a figural one (like a head or an arm). These figural reliquaries contain the body parts that they illustrate (for instance, a bust of the head and shoulders would contain a skull, a foot would contain a foot, etc.) I've been obsessed with reliquaries since I was a little girl -- you could say they were my first antique desire. Fine reliquaries are quite rare (especially here in America). They are also quite expensive, since they usually incorporate gold, silver and precious gems (not to mention objects of veneration). It would be a dream come true to find a great example.

I'd also love to find some costumed Victorian insects. I saw a beautiful piece at the V&A in London a few years ago: It was a 19th-century diorama of giant ants all costumed for a fancy dress ball, under a glass dome. I'd love one of those.


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