Amber Druce and Lisa Graves, Collections Officers for World Cultures
We’ve been really busy over the last few months planning an exhibition about death, due to open at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery in October 2015. It will show objects from across the world and from many cultures and through time (from Bristol’s own amazing collections). We want it to offer lots of voices and attitudes so that we can all learn from other perspectives.
Many psychologists and bereavement counsellors believe that as a society we, and especially children, need to talk more about death to make it less scary. In this exhibition we’re looking to offer a communal, safe environment to address the issues and ethics around death and dying. Many cultures concentrate on celebrating the lives of deceased loved ones, most famously in Mexico, so it isn’t all doom and gloom!
We’ve been working on an objects list, photographing artefacts, and grouping objects together by subjects and stories. Artefacts include Mexican Day of the Dead figurines, a mortuary table, Egyptian coffins, Buddhist watercolours showing death processes & ancestor worship, and mourning clothes and jewellery.
We’ve started talking to the public and to professionals from the death industry (such as the Centre of Death & Society in Bath, Arnos Vale Cemetery, University of Bristol Buddhist Death Project, independent celebrants, researchers, healthcare professionals), and various artists. The response from potential collaborators has been overwhelming, especially those for the public programme; creative writing workshop leaders, speakers, art psychotherapists, death café hosts, and theatrical programmers & performers.
The events we’re organising to go with the exhibition will be just as significant as the exhibition itself, to do justice to such an important subject. We’re planning a range of activities, including will writing workshops, debates, theatre, film screenings, and day-schools. If you can’t wait until next year, our first Death Café will be on 31 October 2014, part of the museum’s Mexican Day of the Dead event.
There’s still time to let us know what you think about the exhibition. Is it something you’d visit or would you avoid it? What kind of events are you interested in? Are there any issues that you think are taboo? Let us know – we’d love to hear from you! Send us a note through our contact form, tweet us or pop a comment below.