Behind the scenes – installing death: the human experience

Posted on by Fay Curtis.

We’ve been busily moving objects, constructing walls and display cases and adding interpretation in our exhibition gallery, ready for death: the human experience which opens on 24 October 2015 (this Saturday!).

Here’s a sneak peek of what it’s looking like behind the scenes…

Photo of a taxidermy jackal and king vulture on a trolley

Our jackal and king vulture make themselves at home in our exhibition gallery.

Photo of objects on display in the death exhibition

The ‘Funerals’ section of the exhibition.

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Modern grave goods and urns.

The Final Resting Places case, anatomical skeleton for handling (taking a break before he has to stand up for five months!) and a stained glass window from St Stephens Church, Bristol.


A Ghanaian fantasy coffin and a modern burial shroud.

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‘Funerals’ objects before being put in place.

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Symbols of death objects (some of which are handling objects).

death: the human experience runs at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery from 24 October 2015—13 March 2016. You have the choice to pay what you think the exhibition is worth to you.

More death: the human experience posts:

7 comments on “Behind the scenes – installing death: the human experience

  1. Diana Velhagen

    HI there,

    This looks like a fascinating exhibition! I am currently studying for an MA in Museum Studies and am writing an assignment on controversial exhibits in the modern museum. May I therefore ask if you have any examples of Victorian “post mortem” photographs in ‘death: the human experience’ exhibition? Thank you and wishing you all a Happy New Year!

    Kind regards, Diana


    1. Lisa Graves

      Hi Diana
      Yes we do have Victorian post-mortem photographs on display in the exhibition. There are about 10 photographs that have been edited together into a short moving film with an additional image of Ron Mueck’s ‘Dead Dad’ sculpture at the end to compliment a modern version of a post-mortem representation.
      Let me know if you’d like any extra information.
      Best wishes


      1. Diana Velhagen

        Hi Lisa,

        Thank you for this information; much appreciated! A couple more questions if I may:

        I see there are a number of sections (ie symbols, mourning, memorialisation etc) in the exhibition. Where does the film of these images appear? I am assuming in mourning?

        Are the public given the choice of whether to see this film in walking around the exhibition?

        Finally, do you yet have a sense of a prevailing “take” on the exhibition from visitor feedback?

        Thank you and kind regards



        1. Lisa Graves

          Hi Diana
          The images are in a section called ‘Post Mortem’ which looks at what happens to the body immediately after death (surprisingly!). The public aren’t given a choice to see it in that there’s nothing covering the screen, however it is quite a small screen and is easily overlooked. The images move quite slowly so my impression is that many may not realise what they are seeing as the info about them is at the start of the film.
          There have been no complaints about this section in specific that I am aware of and overall for the whole exhibition very, very few negative comments, and many of those relate to the design and layout.
          The exhibition was meant to get people thinking about and talking about death more easily and it appears it is doing just that with many positive reviews and social media comments (#isawdeath #death exhibition).
          Best wishes


  2. Maisie

    Could anybody tell me please where the sort of death wallpaper design on the pink backdrop comes from? Does anybody know who designed it?
    Thanks in anticipation.


    1. Lauren McGuffog

      Hi Maisie, the death wallpaper was designed by the graphic designer at the museum.


  3. cathy o'mahony

    Hi, I am currently studying a history degree and thinking of exploring Victorian post mortem photographs and memento mori as my dissertation subject.
    I would very much appreciate any information you offer me on the subject.


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