Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Mourning and Funerary Artifact Exhibition, Slifer House, Lewisburg PA
When visiting my sister in Lewisburg, PA a few weeks ago, we visited an exhibition entitled "Gone, But Not Forgotten: Death & Mourning in Victorian America"--an assemblage of mourning and funerary artifacts drawn from the collection of Galen Betzer, proprietor of Galen R. Betzer Funeral Services, being held at the Slifer Historic House Museum.
The exhibition seeks to explore the customs surrounding death and mourning in the 19th Century; the historical house is draped in black crepe, as if a cherished family member (in this case, family patriarch Eli Slifer) had just died, and each room in the 19th Century mansion features other evidence of mourning, each one painstakingly pointed out and explained by the tour guide.
The exhibit culminates in a small room packed full of mourning and funerary artifacts drawn from Galen's vast and broad collection. This room is filled with an entrancing breadth and magnitude of artifacts such as hair art, mourning stationary, "tear catchers," funeral souvenirs, memorial photographs, a variety of goreyesque hearse designs (see above), hair and other memorial jewelry, coffin plates, mourning clothing, and antique funerary trade literature and promotional materials. The Centerpiece is a small child's coffin, and an elaborate children's hearse dominates the front porch of the house.
All photos above from the exhibition; see the complete set of photographs here. You can find out more information about the exhibition and related events and lectures here. For more information on artworks related to mourning, check out Curious Expedition's recent post The Art of Mourning.