I spent a good part of my childhood in cemeteries. My mom, an avid genealogist, was on a ferocious hunt for my great-great-great-grandfather’s grave and dragged me and my siblings with her. Sometimes I’d stay behind in the van and read a Sweet Valley High book, but often I walked the rows of graves with her, reading the inscriptions on the stone markers. Years later I researched cemetery development and Victorian death rituals as part of my graduate studies.
It’s no wonder then that I did not hesitate to say yes when Dale, senior curator of cultural history, asked me last March if I wanted to see an embalming machine. Within a few hours I found myself inventorying a collection of funerary materials that the Indiana Funeral Directors Association planned to donate to the Indiana State Museum. The collection included several embalming machines, embalming fluid, burial clothing, cooling boards, a makeup case and other embalming tools and equipment.
After the museum’s Collections Review Committee approved the donation, Dale and I made a second trip to pack and transport the goods. Now that everything has been numbered, photographed and catalogued, the museum wants to show you these really cool, albeit, slightly unusual objects. That’s what I’ll be working on this year, developing an exhibit that will let you see all the death-related artifacts in our collection and blogging about the process, too.
You can get a sneak peek of some of the objects now. Visit our online database. Type the keyword “death” into the search box and you’ll get over 500 hits. Browse through them, and let me know which objects intrigue you most and why. Which would you like to see on exhibit?
Filed under: culture, history, museums, science | Tagged: burial clothing, cemeteries, death, embalming fluid, embalming machine, genealogy, grave stones, Indiana Funeral Directors Association, mortician |