Meet MMM: Katie Clary — Mors Mortis Museum

Hey, it’s me! Read more about my work with Trish Biers and Mors Mortis Museum here. How did I get into death studies? What are my research goals? Maybe this blog will answer some of those questions. MMM has some great things coming up, and we are excited to get together again in the UK this fall at the Association for Death and Society conference at University of Bath.

This post introduces MMM co-founder Dr. Katie Clary and her entry into death studies as a museum professional. Be on the lookout for more blogs from Dr. Clary and Dr. Biers this summer! In 2015 I was on the job market after leaving a position of Executive Director of a Historic House Museum in Tennessee, USA. […]

via Meet MMM: Katie Clary — Mors Mortis Museum

DaCNet 2: Day 2

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Day 2 opened with, “Corpses in Cabinets,” my own panel, which included fantastic women scholars from around the world, but also FROM MY HOME STATE!

Imagine my surprise when I realized the first speaker, Melissa Schrift, was from East Tennessee State University, 2 hours from my hometown. How cool to travel all the way to England to meet someone from home who is doing super cool, and in some ways similar work, to my own. Melissa spoke on, “Race, bodies and spectacle in 19th century living exhibitions,” which was super exciting for me, since a large part of my dissertation and previous work was on freakshows and exhibitions of people with disabilities or difference. One of her case studies was that of Charles Byrne, “The Irish Giant,” whose body is still on display and causing controversy at the Hunterian in London. I spoke next on human remains in museums, then Jenny Bergman and Kicki Eldh presented “Death –a concern?” about human remains in Swedish museums.

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Last, but certainly not least, curators Katherine Baxter and Ruth Martin from Leeds Museums and Galleries presented, “Displaying the dead: public reactions to human skeletons in museums.” I loved this one! They shared the museum’s human remains policy as well as photography policies. Leeds Museums have also integrated these big questions of museums displaying and photographing the dead into their exhibitions to involve the museum stakeholders and visitors in the process. Note to self: I have GOT to get myself to the Leeds Museums and want to chat more with Katherine and Ruth on their work.

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I am not exaggerating when I say this conference was basically made for me. The next session I attended was “Bodies on View,” which included a paper on TLC and other television programming (which I’ve written about before as the modern freakshow) and reliquaries and “bone churches.” First up, Agata Korecka tackled “Death, dying and light entertainment” through medical reality television. Shows in the UK like Embarassing Bodies, or US-based shows like My 600 Pound Life, and a variety of other programs depict people with medical issues for entertainment or education. Sometimes, the subjects of those shows die, such as in the case of Robert Buchel, who died soon after filming. Korecka examined public reactions to the show during the airing, and then after the announcement of his death during the program. Kelsey Perreault ended the session with, “The Church of Bones and the human rights of the dead.” She explored a church in that displays the bones of various individuals in patterns across the chapel, and the treatment of these bones as a dark tourist destination. One audience question was about the gift shop offerings and commodification of the dead. Perreault also addressed questions about “protecting the dignity of the dead.” So good!!

20180907_161715My last session of the day was “Digital Reimaginings” with Kelly Richards and Matt Coward. Kelly did an amazing job discussing “Reimagining the personification of Death in popular culture” with a talk that included comics, movies, and other popular culture and their depictions of death. Her multimedia presentation included some fantastic video clips (Bill and Ted! Mighty Boosh!!) and she even finished the session with a great rebuttal of some quite strange questions.. Wonderful job, Kelly! Matt ended the conference with a bang, discussing death and video games. I learned about some new games I want to play (Graveyard Keeper!) and now have a different perspective of seeing death spaces in video games, as well (not cool to ransack graves, God of War).

And just like that, DaCNet 2 was done. I hope to see a lot of the same folks at the14th International Conference on the Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal in Bath next year. Until then…

DaCNet 2: Day 1

img_8ac6ph.jpgAfter such a great night at the pub with the DaCNet people, I was excited to head over to University of York the next morning for the conference. I had a beautiful one mile walk through allotments and a park before coming to campus. My only complaint about this conference, and I’m not sure how it could be fixed, is that there were so many great papers in each session. I wanted to try to hop from room to room for different papers in different sessions, but rooms were always packed (yay!) and it wasn’t really feasible. That said here are some highlights from Day 1;

20180906_115908.jpgHeather Conway and Ruth Penfold-Mounce, “The evil dead: the law and disposing of the criminal corpse.” – Wow. Something I had never given much thought, but now I can’t stop thinking about it! Who cares for the criminal dead, such as Ian Brady or the Manchester concert bomber? The morgue that took their remains has been dubbed “Monster Morgue.”  Similar to this talk was, “(Dis)posing of monsters: justice and the ‘inhuman’ dead” by Daniel Robins and Rosie Smith. I’m still thinking through these issues and trying to decide what rights the dead have, and if those supersede those of the living. Best example: Ian Brady (who murdered children and buried them on the moors) wanted his ashes spread across those same moors; he was denied and instead his ashes were buried at sea, at night, and in secret. So thought-provoking!

tess-margollesAnother one that has really stuck with me: Julia Banwell’s, “Echoes of the absent: Teresa Margolles’ work with afterlives of bodies, objects and spaces.” Art and the dead. Artist Teresa Margolles has some great work addressing. Some of her best-known work is the details of murder victims of the cartels on marquees in Mexican towns and cities. The only thing I learned in this conference that truly bothered me was the piece, En El Aire (In the Air) (2003) which was a room filled with water vapor… from the water used to wash corpses at a morgue. Read more about her work here.

In the afternoon, I attended Claire Wood’s “Ordering meaning in the Victorian memorial card” which looked in depth at these wonderful primary sources used to commemorate the dead. They are beautiful pieces of art, too! Last, Helen Frisby presented on, “Representing gravediggers in nineteenth and twentieth century popular culture” which included some great references to popular culture gravediggers.

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Our evening concluded with a keynote address from Joanna Burke titled, “Carved into the body: forensic science, truth, and the female corpse.” Professor Burke talked about the gendered nature of death and forensics through the story of one of the early forensic mannequins used for training in England. From there, we were treated to a reception and dinner, which included a book launch and celebration by Emerald Publishing’s Death Studies series. Congrats to the new authors! I walked back to the guesthouse, excited for day 2 of DacNet and my own presentation in the morning…

AcWriMo2018 Results and Updates

DqTKz0pX0AIy4Q2.jpg-largeAt the end of October I set up (rather ambitious) goals to take part in AcWriMo2018 (Academic Writing Month). I was inspired by Katy Peplin, PhD who organized a bunch of us with the hashtag, slack channels, writing retreats, and more wonderful (FREE) resources. Check out her website at katiepeplin.com, or on twitter at @KatyPeplinCoach and @ThrivePhD for all kinds of great advice, coaching, support, and encouragement from grad school through to writing that manuscript. If it wasn’t for seeing her tweets and info about AcWriMo, I don’t think I would have done near as much as I did. That, combined with the support and checking in of friends and colleagues, digitally and through twitter, got me through the month with almost all of my goals completed!

Here are my goals, as stated November 1:

12 blogs- 6000 words
1 professional blog – 1000 words
Research notes – 250 words, 5 days a week (can roll over) – 5000 words
Book proposal – ? – submit by 30th
Statement for conference – 500 words
Co-authored article (maybe) – 5000 words – email with potential co-author on an outline/timeline for this
Total Words: Over 17,000

Here is what I completed:

10 blogs – 6433 words
1 professional blog – 806 words – Available here: https://www.mummystories.com/single-post/KatieStringerClary 
Research notes – 5321 words –  I am surprised I met this; and didn’t think I did until I just added them all up
Book proposal – 3493 – SUBMITTED TO SERIES EDITOR!!!!
Statement for conference: Instructions didn’t come through, but I did submit to 2 other conferences, and have another in the works!
Co-authored article – have some plans in the works, but no words to show for it really;
Bonuses: see details below – appx – 2500 words
Total: Over 18,533 words

Honestly, getting up to write this this morning I didn’t think I’d met all of my goals, and I still felt pretty good about myself. Now that I know I’ve done it (even if not in exactly the way I had planned) – how exciting!

601995_3f6bc50a97f74403b3104f3650174d54~mv2The big thing was the book proposal, and I’m so thankful to all of you who looked over it and made incredible comments and just let me bounce ideas off of you and think out-loud via text. More to come on that in the future.  I know blogs don’t really “count” for anything, but I made them a goal to get myself just writing words and typing things out and getting them out of my head; and it worked! They were also a great way to feel like I was accomplishing something when other projects were stalled. The submitted blog was originally going to be something completely different until I woke up one morning thinking about the incredible Mummy Stories project by Angela Stienne. It was so fun to research Neskhons, the mummy who started me down all these various paths, and I hope he manages to make his way into my book.  Research notes were the hardest part of the process, since I’m working through my outline and manuscript at the same time. I still read some great articles and got ideas out into a doc, so that is what is most important.

sourceThe Bonuses I got done worked out to be: 2 abstracts for presentations at a Death Conference, abstract for a chapter proposal submitted, proposal to museums conference submitted, kept caught up on grading, discussions and putting out feelers for an edited volume with an amazing group of women, making progress on a collective of death studies individuals working towards radicalized death studies, got Zotero all set up for the new project, posted all of my student blogs (check them out at www.ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com), and just generally keeping up with the holidays and end of the semester.

giphy-2So final thoughts on this: no way would I have gotten as much done as I did without community and support from friends and colleagues (shout out to Twitter, for real). Having people just text and say, “are you writing today? let’s do a pom,” or listening, or sharing stupid gifs made a word of distance. Second, actually writing out these goals  (and rewards, which I haven’t gotten around to yet – tragedy!) and making a planDUH. I tell my students this all the time, and finally got around to practicing it, and lo and behold it actually works. Third: keeping a chart and spreadsheet to calculate that these goals are happening, other things I did, reflecting on the practice. Like I said above, who knew I actually met these goals! My spreadsheet did, and now I do, too.

Now: to keep up the momentum and keep setting and sticking to my goals. Get it!