The National Museum of Funeral History is home to the largest collection of funeral service artifacts in the world ”“ displaying exhibits on some of the oldest customs centered on death. The museum was founded by Robert L. Waltrip in 1992. Waltrip spent many years envisioning a place where people could learn about the traditions of death care. Today, the museum stretches across 35,500 sq. ft. and is one of the largest of its kind in the United States.
You’ll encounter a range of rituals pertaining to mourning the dead ”“ some that date back to ancient civilizations. Other items of interest at the museum include memorabilia of items used in the funerals of famous figures, such as U.S. presidents and popes. Some of the exhibits that you will encounter at the National Museum of Funeral History include:
Day of the Dead
The Day of the Dead (or Dias de los Muertos in Spanish) is a religious celebration that takes place from October 31 (Halloween) through November 2 (All Souls Day) in certain cultures. The festivities of this holiday center the belief that the dead return to pay a visit to the living. The museum has an exhibit that presents the customs and traditions surrounding the tradition. You’ll view models of Mexican homes and gravesites that showcase the influence of the Day of the Dead. Items, such as candles, flowers, breads and other objects are used to create what is called an ofrendas (memory table or altar).
History of Embalming
Embalming plays an important role in the preservation of human remains and the history of the practice is dotted with techniques that include ancient Egyptian rituals and methods used during the American Civil War. You’ll learn the origin of embalming and view tools used in different processes, such as mummification.
Coffins and Caskets of the Past
Coffins and caskets have not always looked the same or have been made out of the same materials. With a range of interesting containers for the dead, the museum devotes an exhibit to different caskets, including one constructed to accommodate the bodies of three people. One casket is comprised out of real coins and dollar bills. There is even a coffin with glass panels to mirror the one that may have been featured in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Visitors will also encounter a full-scale recreation of a casket factory that highlights a facility that operated during the 1900s.
If you are interested in visiting the National Museum of Funeral History, you will find the attraction located at 415 Barren Springs Drive in Houston, Texas. The hours of the site are Monday to Friday (10am until 4pm), Saturday (10am until 5pm), and Sunday (12pm until 5pm). The price of admission to the museum is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors or veterans, $7 for children under 12 years old, and children under the age of 3 are free.