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What Makes a Monster?: Home

The new exhibition What Makes a Monster? explores how human have long found wonder in the strange and macabre, from mythical creatures to the real world freak show artists, microscopic pathogens, and monstrous criminals.

What Makes a Monster?

What do nine-headed water serpents, microscopic pathogens, criminals, freak-show artists, and so many diverse communities of the other have in common? In various historical settings and contexts, they all have carried the label “monstrous,” sometimes as a result of unproven assumptions, a lack of scientific awareness, or purposeful demonization by figures of authority. What Makes A Monster?, held simultaneously in five library locations across the two USC campuses, examines preconceived notions about such monsters, and why they elicit responses across the emotional and physical, political and cultural spectrums. 

The exhibition features rare items from the USC Libraries Special Collections, such as Swiss natural scientist Ulisse Aldrovandi’s 1642 Monstrorum Historia and Reginald Scot’s 1584 The Discoverie of Witchcraft, alongside recently produced works such as a deck of serial killer “trading cards” and a Mayan altar with accompanying hexes “for the wandering male.” 

Curators: Tyson Gaskill and Anne-Marie Maxwell

Body Scrub digital display: Kurosh ValaNejad

Exhibition concept: Margaret Wertheim

Exhibition design: Silvina Niepomniszcze

Construction expertise: Michael Maxwell

Special thanks for advice and loans of monstrous

material: Al Guerrero, Al Ridenour, Danny Roebuck,

Billy T. Smith, and Casey Wong