"Death in America: Ritual and Memorial"

[Picture of hearse.]

This exhibit at the MSU Museum was the end result of several years of planning on the part of Val Berryman, Curator of History. My own part in the project involved about six months of research and preparation. The full exhibit (which ran from February 11 - August 11, 1996) dealt with "American" perceptions of death and customs related to mourning and funerary practices. The scope of the exhibit was massive, covering everything from the history of postmortem photography to tombstone art and Mexican "Day of the Dead" celebrations. I was very impressed with the outcome of this exhibit and hope (no promises) that at a later date I might be able to share with you some images from other parts of the exhibit.

[Dressed for Mourning]

I guest-curated the section entitled "Dressed for Mourning," which examines mourning dress in Victorian American culture. Obviously, I have a great deal of work to do on this particular page, but it is certainly worth viewing. At this point, all of my text from the exhibit is available, as well as a few images. I have much more picture-taking and scanning to do before this location is complete, so stay tuned. It is fascinating thing to study, how fashion and etiquette reflect a culture's moral sensibilities at any given time. If this sort of thing interests you, I encourage you to do a little additional reading, since the information here is limited. Any good book on Victorian culture and/or Victorian fashion will give a basic account of mourning dress practices, but primary resources (such as period etiquette books and fashion magazines) are far more interesting. Stay tuned as well for a brief bibliography of sources that I used for this exhibit.


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