What makes a murderer? Can crime and criminal behavior really be predicted? Well, no, I’m not trying to sell you yet another spin-off of Philip K. Dick’s (or, for that matter, Spielberg’s) “Minority Report”, nor do I wish to engage into a hot debate concerning humanity’s penchant for violence. My only intention is that of bringing to your attention one of Turin’s hidden gems: the Museum of Criminal Anthropology “Cesare Lombroso”. Next time when you visit Turin, take a peek inside its fascinating (and at times quite creepy) halls.
The museum actually started as a hobby born both from passion and from professional curiosity – more precisely, as an army M.D., Lombroso put together (as of 1859) a fascinating private collection comprising skeletons, abnormal skulls, murder weapons of choice and various personal objects belonging to famous criminals of the time. No wonder about the direction his preoccupations took, he lived in an era when phrenology was considered hype…
Gradually, his collection grew both in scope and in importance, since Lombroso himself deepened his research on the subject and became one of the forefathers of the positivist science known today as criminal anthropology. Quite obsolete nowadays, it argues that people committing murders are actually born into it, as a result of a peculiar combination of physiological traits which makes them greatly differ from the “normal” masses. Nevertheless, the ideas he and his followers brought to light didn’t put down roots and were subsequently rejected by modern theorists and men of science, who later proved the paramount influence of the environment upon human behavioral patterns.
In any case, the museum in itself is a must see: besides the fact that it encapsulates, within its halls, thousands of anatomical specimens, drawings, photographs, examples of material evidence, written documents, and valuable craft and artistic works created by asylum and prison inmates, all of them testimonies of theories now proven dead wrong, it is nothing but a reminder of the oh-so-necessary quest for understanding human violence, and merely illustrates a (weird and flabbergasting) step in scientific progress.
N.B.: No, I’m not a racist, nor any of the things people liking this museum are accused of. Just unrepentatly curious.
WHERE: Museo di Antropologia Criminale “Cesare Lombroso”, Via Pietro Giuria 15, Turin
WHEN: open from Monday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm: closed on Sundays
HOW MUCH: cash only; full price: €5, reduced fare: €3; free admission for disabled people and one accompanying person, owners of Abbonamento Musei Torino Piemonte and Torino+Piemonte Card; free admission every Wednesday of the month