Exhibition planning: Curators’ update on death: the human experience

Posted on by Fay Curtis.

Amber Druce and Lisa Graves, Collections Officers for World Cultures

Photo of a burials register from Bristol ArchivesDeath: the human experience is Bristol Museum & Art Gallery’s Autumn 2015 exhibition.

Since our last planning update we’re very pleased to be able to tell you that Bristol Archives will be staging a complementary exhibition at the same time. We’re using some material from Bristol Record Office in death: the human experience but there’s such an amazing collection available that there’s plenty of archives for two exhibitions!

Conservation and research are ongoing, design plans are beginning to take shape, learning packages are being planned, sponsorship opportunities are being compiled, and we’ve now got a shortlist of events to run alongside the exhibition – keep an eye on what’s on where we’ll publish the details.

Our latest community consultation session focused on design ideas and the ‘feel’ of the exhibition. We looked at some initial ideas for marketing and discussed what attracted people and what didn’t.

We also appealed for loans to better represent contemporary funerals and mourning practices from our local communities. We’re asking:

  • Which objects best symbolise funerals for your particular faith or cultural group?
  • What provisions have you made for your funeral? Do any objects represent your own plans?
  • What would you wear if there was a bereavement in your family / community?
  • Are there any objects that can symbolise how you or any particular faith or cultural group display grief?

If you’d like to discuss the possibility of loaning objects or photos, please get in touch and we’ll send you more information.

Photo of a Victorian Mourning dress The Friends of Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives have kindly agreed to fund the conservation of some key items in the exhibition; a Victorian mourning dress and two ‘payback figures’ from Papua New Guinea.

Our funding bid to the Wellcome Trust was successful so they’re very generously financing the scientific elements of the exhibition, schools programme and events. This funding also enables us to stage an additional display about assisted dying which will run from January – March 2016 in the Balcony Gallery.

In February, we attended Bristol Death Café, where people come together to discuss death over tea and cake. One of the main reasons we wanted to organise a death exhibition was to encourage people to talk about death, and the Death Café ethos really ties in with this. If you’ve never been to one before, don’t be scared to go along, they’re fascinating and you never know who you might meet or what you might learn!

More Death postsPhoto of a conservator assessing a stained glass window

2 comments on “Exhibition planning: Curators’ update on death: the human experience

  1. Claire Callender

    This looks great, please have a look at our website, we’ve been ceremonial undertakers for 15 years and run a burial ground we would love to be involved. Maybe help avoid same old same old dull dull dull questions people ask about funerals completely missing how they have changed
    Warm regards
    Claire Callender


  2. Amber Druce

    Thanks Claire. We’ve been talking to lots of people about contemporary and alternative funerals so there should be some lovely stories about how things have changed over the years. I’ll drop you an email.
    Thanks, Amber.


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