Friday, June 3, 2011

"Six Feet Under" - Visit to National Museum of Funeral History - #1 - Overview

It is now summer, and vacation season, and many families – including many Civil War enthusiasts – will be making trips to battlefields and museums. If you are in my area – near Houston, Texas – consider a visit to the National Museum of Funeral History (website here). I had the great pleasure of visiting this most interesting institution recently to do some research for a "Medical Department" column for the Civil War News (coming soon!) and had a terrific time!

The museum – which opened its doors in October 1992 – fulfilled the aspirations of founder Robert L. Waltrip, who had long dreamed of an institution that would educate the public and preserve the rich heritage of the funeral industry. The NMFH is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization, and all profits raised by donations, admissions, and gift shop sales go towards the operation of the Museum.

With over 35,000 square feet of exhibition space, the NMFH is the largest educational center on funeral heritage in the United States and perhaps the world. The museum boasts several permanent exhibits, including a recreated 1900s casket factory (filled with original casket factory artifacts including handmade sanders and the sawdust located on the floor!), a display related to the Meso-American holiday of Dias de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”), an 1860 German "Glaswagen" Funeral Coach (among other hearses), a display of “fantasy coffins” (including an airliner, a Mercedes Benz, animals, and a canoe), an exhibit dedicated to Papal funerals (encompassing 5,000 square feet of space and featuring one-of-a-kind items), and other funeral heritage artifacts.

Of special interest was a “Civil War Embalming Exhibit” featuring Dr. Thomas Holmes!

As experts in their field, the staff of the NMFH has been a leading consultant to many motion picture and television production companies as well as well as national and international print media. They have supplied “props” from the early days of the undertaker to the modern funeral home to “Kill Bill: Vol 1,” “Gangs of New York,” “Six Feet Under,” documentaries produced by A&E and Discovery, and other productions.

I'll be posting some photo collections of various exhibits over the next few are some to get you started!

Front of M
Gift Shop
Replica of 1900s Casket Factory (See their online tour of the factory here)
Main Exhibit Floor
Hearse Collection
World War I Era Railway Casket Carriage
Closeup of Identification Tag on WWI Casket

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