As soon as I saw this video, I knew we had to feature it as a Death in Cambridge post. I had no idea that the Duckworth Laboratory even existed! It is part of the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies and contains amazing collections including skulls, skeletons, death masks, mummies and much more besides. Sadly it is not open to the public as a museum, but it is still an incredible research resource. In this video, you can watch Dr Ronika Power from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology take you on a behind the scenes tour of this hidden deathly treasure:
As you may know, we’ve been away for a bit, but we’re getting back into our regular posting schedule again now. So here’s what we found online this week:
The Huffington Post discusses why cremation is more popular than ever in the US. There are a number of factors contributing to this change in funerary practice, including the fact that as people become more mobile, the traditional ‘family plot’ is becoming less relevant. Changing religious practices also seem to play a role, with less social pressure to have a traditional Christian funeral. Check out the article, it also has a lovely infographic!
The Tumblr “Strange Remains” has a great post looking at some of the more bizarre ways human remains have been displayed over the years, not just in museums but in curiosity shops, restaurants and even public bathrooms. Given the controversy of displaying human remains even in more traditional museum settings, it’s eye-opening to see how people’s attitudes to corpses-on-display can be so different. Quirky or distasteful? What do you think?
In weird news, my favourite story of the week has to be the man who was arrested and fined in Portsmouth, UK, for pretending to be a ghost in a local cemetery. Oh dear, that’s my weekend plans gone then!
If you’re in the UK (or can do some sneaky stuff online) you can watch the new series “The Beauty of Anatomy” on BBC iPlayer. The first episode discussed the legacy of the ancient anatomist Galen and how his ideas held sway until Leonardo da Vinci and others began to practice human dissections.
If you can’t view that, but still want a cool anatomy fix, the first edition of Vesaluis’ famous De Humani Corporis Fabrica is available as a digitised copy from the US National Library of Medicine. Seriously, check this out. It’s some of the most beautiful and interactive digitisation of a text I’ve ever seen!
And finally, I leave you with this charming and very funny animation about a couple of very dedicated undertakers:
It’s Sunday again, which means time for more deathly nuggets found on the interwebs this week!
“Too many people are dying in a way they wouldn’t choose, and too many of their loved ones are left feeling bereaved, guilty, and uncertain.
It’s time to transform our culture so we shift from not talking about dying to talking about it. It’s time to share the way we want to live at the end of our lives. And it’s time to communicate about the kind of care we want and don’t want for ourselves.”
Do check them out and download a Conversation Starter Kit to help you have ‘the conversation’ with your loved ones.
Next, LiveScience has an image gallery of the anatomist and artist Gunther von Hagens recent work, the Animals Inside Out touring exhibition. I got to see this in London and it was breathtaking. Gunther uses ‘plastination‘ techniques to preserve the muscle, tissue and even blood vessels of animals (and humans) and turns them into scientific exhibits that are also works of art.
While on the topic of animals, here are nine touching epitaphs that ancient Greeks and Romans wrote for their deceased dogs. Just goes to show that the companionship of pets really is timeless.
Here at Deathly Ponderings, we’d also like to congratulate the Morbid Anatomy Museum in New York, which has opened this weekend. I hope to be able to visit there one day!
Right, that’s about it for another week. Let’s leave you with this rather wonderful creation of artist Thomas Kuntz, a hand-cranked automaton of a skeleton playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, because why not?
Image credit: 18th century Scottish gravestone featuring Memento Mori. Image from Martyn Gorman (CC2.0)
Earlier this month I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend a three day conference in London that was all about death! Death Salon was started in the US and is based around the 18th century salon/coffeehouse movement where people got together to talk and share ideas. The recent event that I went to was the first time that Death Salon had held an event in the UK, so as soon as I heard it was happening, I snapped up two three day tickets immediately for Ryan and me!
I am very glad that I did, because during those three days I had an experience like no other. Each day had a theme: ante-mortem, peri-mortem and post-mortem. Each speaker sort of fitted in with each theme, with some finding some flexibility with their content. Each talk lasted for half an hour, with an average of 9-10 individual speakers per day, presenting on a whole range of topics. Each day was then concluded by a half hour keynote speech from one of the several Death Salon members who were in attendance: Megan Rosenbloom (Death Salon Director and co-founder), Dr Lindsey Fitzharris (Medical historian and The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice) and Caitlin Doughty (Founder of The Order of the Good Death).
As there was so much content, I cannot possibly cover each and every single speaker here, but thankfully there were some of us (myself included) who were tweeting throughout the conference and so I was able to pull everything together and create some rather epic Storify reports for each day. So, if you want the nitty gritty, check them out! Day One; Day Two; Day Three.