Museums, Heritage, and Death

I’m so excited to have co-edited this volume with Dr. Trish Biers for Routledge Press! The Routledge Handbook of Museums, Heritage, and Death is scheduled for release on July 26, 2023, with pre-order available on July 3.

About Museums, Heritage, and Death

This book provides a comprehensive examination of death, dying, and human remains in museums and heritage sites around the world.

Presenting a diverse range of contributions from scholars, practitioners, and artists, the book reminds us that death and the dead body are omnipresent in museum and heritage spaces. Chapters appraise collection practices and their historical context, present global perspectives and potential resolutions, and suggest how death and dying should be presented to the public. Acknowledging that professionals in the galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM) fields are engaging in vital discussions about repatriation and anti-colonialist narratives, the book includes reflections on a variety of deathscapes that are at the forefront of the debate. Taking a multivocal approach, the handbook provides a foundation for debate as well as a reference for how the dead are treated within the public arena. Most important, perhaps, the book highlights best practices and calls for more ethical frameworks and strategies for collaboration, particularly with descendant communities.

The Routledge Handbook of Museums, Heritage, and Death will be useful to all individuals working with, studying, and interested in curation and exhibition at museums and heritage sites around the world. It will be of particular interest to those working in the fields of heritage, museum studies, death studies, archaeology, anthropology, sociology, and history.

About the Book and Contributors

Table of Contents

Introduction by Trish Biers and Katie Stringer Clary

Part 1: Acquisition, Curation, and Conservation of the Dead

1. Historical Contexts of Bodies, Display, and Spectacle by Katie Stringer Clary

2. Conserving the Humanity of Human Remains by Cat Irving

3. A Museum Archive: An Unexpected Final Resting Place but One Full of Promise by Jelena Bekvalac

4. Striking a Balance: Preserving, Curating, and Investigating Human Remains from the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Sicily by Kirsty Squires and Dario Piombino-Mascali

5. The Handling of the Remains of the Ancestors in Peru: Realities, Challenges, and Wishes by Guido P. Lombardi, Rubén Buitrón, Lizbeht Tepo, Clide Valladolid, Bradymir Bravo, Susana Arce, Elva Torres, Sonia Guillén, and Trish Biers

6. Engaging with Death in Museums and Collections by Trish Biers

Part 2: Displaying the Dead: Exhibitions and Ethical Considerations

7. Education, Preservation and Reconciliation: The J.L. Shellshear Museum and the Preservation and Display of Human Remains by Denise Donlon and Fiona Gill

8. The Mummies of Guanajuato: The Tension between Ethics and Ambition by Paloma Robles Lacayo

9. The Cost of Civil Rights: Loss, Grief, and Death at US Civil Rights Museum by Jenny Woodley

10. Changing People, Changing Content: New Perspectives on Past Peoples by Rebecca Redfern and Thomas Booth

11. Transforming Memento Mori: A Contemporary Lens by Charles Clary

12. The Hollywood Museum of Death: The Commodification of the Maiden, Criminal and the Corpse by Tia Tudor Price

Part 3: Decolonisation and Shifting the Perspective in Museums and Heritage

13. Papuan Pasts: The Origins of Papuan Human Remains Collections in the World’s Museums, the Issue of Repatriation, and Telling New Stories with Skeletal Data by Jason Kariwiga, Gabriel Wrobel, and Michael C. Westaway

14. Searching for Identities through Archaeological Human Remains in Turkey by Eli̇fgül Doğan

15. Entangled Entitlements and Shuar Tsantsa (Shrunken Heads) by Laura N.K. Van Broekhoven

16. Julia Pastrana’s Long Journey Home by Laura Anderson Barbata

17. Egyptian Mummified Remains: Communities of Descent and Practice by Heba Abd el-Gawad and Alice Stevenson

18. The Curated Ossilegium: Museum Practices as Death and Mourning Rituals by Evi Numen

Part 4: Deathscapes and Heritage

19. From Dead Places to Places of the Dead: The Memorial Power of Battlefields, Ruins, and Burials in the Warscapes of Spain and the Western Front by Dacia Viejo-Rose, Layla Renshaw, and Paola Filippucci

20. From Trauma to Tourism: Balancing the Needs of the Living and the Dead by Joanne Mather

21. Death, Memory, and Power: Public Memorial Culture of Moscow Necropolises by Maria Kucheryavaya

22. Not Their Heritage Theme Park: Honouring the Outcast at Crossbones Graveyard by Lucy Coleman Talbot

23. The Ghosts of Kūkai: Virtual Heritage and Landscapes of Death in Japan’s Shikoku Pilgrimage by Ronald S. Green and Susan J. Bergeron

24. A Shadow Pandemic: Protest, Mourning, and Grassroots Memorialization in Mexico City by Kelsey Perreault

Part 5: Public Education and Engagement in Museums and Heritage

25. Engagement That Works: Practical Insights for Inviting the Public into Cemeteries by Kimberly Bearden

26. Talking About the D Word: Public Engagement in a Place of the Dead by Janine Marriott

27. The Death Positive Library by Stacey Pitsillides, Claire Nally, Anita Luby, Rhonda Brooks, Fiona Hill, Joanne Ghee, Katherine Ingham, and Judith Robinson

28. Haunted Houses and Horrific History: Ghost Tours at Historic House Museums by Katie Stringer Clary and David Hearnes

29. Walking, Public Engagement, and Pedagogy: Mobile Death Studies by Ruth Penfold-Mounce

Part 6: Death Studies and Heritage in Practice

30. The Cemetery Church of All Saints with the Ossuary by Radka Krejčí

31. Memento Mori Exhibition from the Dominican Crypt, Vác (Március 15 Square, 19) Hungary by Anita Csukovits and Katalin Forró

32. Our Queerly Departed – Researching, Remembering and Respecting the LGBTQ+ Deceased by Sacha Coward

33. Close Encounters with Death and Disease: Young Visitors’ Perspectives at the Mütter Medical History Museum by Rachel Anisha Divaker and Mary Margaret Kerr

34. The Use of CT scan for the Construction of Mummy Replicas for Museography: Social and Ethical Perspectives by Verónica Silva-Pinto, Mario Castro, Yanis Valenzuela-Sánchez, Ayelén Tonko-Huenucoy, Carlos Montoya, Marcelo Gálvez, and Trish Biers

Part 7: Concluding Remarks

Trish Biers and Katie Stringer Clary

From our Mors Mortis Museum website on Museums, Heritage, and Death:


We are so pleased to make a big announcement about something we have been working on: 

Museums, Heritage, and Death has been accepted for publication as a Routledge Handbook! We are so pleased to be working with approximately 50 contributors on topics from cemetery programs to conservation of human remains and everything in between.  Museums, Heritage, and Death explores connections among the fields of heritage studies, museum studies, art galleries, and historic sites, and the examination of death, dying, and human remains displayed as objects. 

We plan to share more about this project over the coming weeks and introduce you to some of the contributors using the hashtag  #MuseumsHeritageDeath


So what exactly is our new book about? Museums, Heritage, and Death will provide a wide-ranging overview of the roles of curation and exhibition in death studies associated with museums and heritage centres where the dead are a significant part of the main foci. 

Museums are active agents for exploring the human experience largely in part because of the objects on display highlighting human creativity, ingenuity, and the classification of the natural world. A large part of this story, though not necessarily explicit, is death as featured in the hundreds of burial objects behind glass cases, or the contemplative memento mori on the gallery wall. From gilded coffins and mummies, to Renaissance paintings on mortality and the maiden, death and the dead body are omnipresent in museum spaces.

Follow along! 



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