San Diego’s Museum of Man is running a special exhibit on Cannibalism through 2020. Originally this was an extra charge. However, because the museum is going through seismic retrofitting they have added this exhibit into the price of a regular admission fee as a bonus. This is an overview of Cannibals: Myth & Reality.
The San Diego Museum of Man is located in a historic building in Balboa Park. Its California Tower stands out as the park’s most notable building. During 2019 the tower will be closed for climbing as it is retrofitted for protection during earthquakes. As a bonus for this inconvenience, the Museum of Man is making the Cannibals: Myth & Reality exhibit free with a paid general admission ticket ($13). Previously it cost $6 in addition to the $13 museum ticket.
Make sure and check out our complete guide to the Museum of Man. This includes suggestions on how to get the best ticket prices, including the Go San Diego card.
The Cannibals: Myth & Reality exhibit is across the street from the main museum entrance. During the retrofitting the main entrance to the Museum of Man is actually through the Cannibals exhibit. From the exhibit, you take the stairs in the St. Francis Chapel and cross to the main museum.
There is no blood and gore in the Cannibals: Myth & Reality exhibit. It is actually on the tame side. The main purpose seems to be to debunk myths and misunderstandings about cannibals.
When you first enter the exhibit there is a display of how cannibalism has been portrayed in popular culture. This included the classic early episode of Bob’s Burgers where rumors spread he was using human meat from the next door mortuary.
One emphasis is how labeling a culture as cannibals was a way to justify enslaving those people. There is a great deal on European conquest where the cannibal label was used as an excuse. Other sections describe how famous European such as King Richard the Lionheart of England may have been cannibals.
Much of the focus is on people in survival situations who were faced with difficult choices. This includes a life-size raft where visitors can draw straws. The short straw is dinner. There is also a large scale version of the game operation where you pull out body parts and see how calories they would provide. These two interactive exhibits are about as light-hearted as the exhibit gets.
Other examples include the famous Donner party that was stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountains, some rugby players in Peru and the skeleton from a girl named Jane whom it is believed may have been a victim during some of the first starving winters.
There is also an apothecary shop where you can see how different parts of the human body were used as medicine. You can describe your symptoms and see what parts would be prescribed as treatment.
Near the end, there is a section on how many animals can be cannibalistic. We were shocked to learn this included are much-beloved pet rabbits!
The Cannibals: Myth & Reality exhibit is definitely not too much for children. Our school has taken groups. The only issue is, like many museums, there is a lot of history and reading. Very informative but kids can get bored.
We joked about what items we would find in the gift shop. There really was not too much except for a card game about the Donner Dinner Party. Once again, I think this was in keeping with the overall serious nature of the exhibit.
Cannibals: Myth & Reality is expected to run through 2020.