Museum of Osteology open in southeast Oklahoma City

Skull, skeleton collection lets people see what's inside of an animal
BY MATT DINGER Modified: November 15, 2010 at 4:26 am •  Published: November 15, 2010
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Jay Villemarette has a few skeletons in his closet. But, he's also got skeletons in vats of solution, in beetle-filled aquariums, and drying on racks.

His Museum of Osteology opened Oct. 1 in Oklahoma City. Osteology involves the study of bones.

Seven years in the making, the museum is the first of its kind in the country, he said. About 1,400 people already have visited, including more than 200 during a Halloween event.

The museum has about 300 skulls and skeletons on exhibition, and expansion is under way. “We'll have another couple hundred by the time we're finished,” Villemarette said.

In addition to various species of birds, reptiles, and other mammals, the museum also boasts a collection of human skeletons and skulls, including one that's been pierced by a bullet hole.

Villemarette says India and China used to export their dead, but these days, his human specimens come from people who donated to science.

Villemarette sells bones and skeletons — including human ones — through Skulls Unlimited International, the for-profit side of the museum. But human remains are available only to doctors and medical students.

“I'm not going to go against somebody's wishes. Money's not that important. It's just not,” Villemarette said.

If it was, then Villemarette wouldn't have sunk an estimated $1 million or more building the museum and its exhibits. At $5 per person, he doesn't expect to recoup his expenses in his lifetime. Additionally, the museum is nonprofit.

A large number of his specimens come from zoological parks across the nation, Villemarette said.