BY TIM CHESTER
Aside from taxes, there’s nothing more certain in life than death. Daniel Defoe knew that. As did Benjamin Franklin. Many are keen to avoid the subject, though.
A new exhibition in Bristol is hoping to change that, attempting to de-stigmatise the issue and encourage more discussion around death and dying.
Death: The Human Experience, which was two years in the making, draws together some 200 items from across the world to show how different nations have lived with life’s great inevitability for centuries.
Coffins, mummies, mourning clothes and grave goods are among the artefacts on display at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.
The exhibit explores the science, ethics, attitude and process of death, and features examples of Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations (which feature in the new James Bond film’s opening scene) as well as Victorian Britain’s mourning rituals. Mortuary tables and fantasy coffins are also included, with some exhibits behind doors allowing visitors to choose if they see them.
An installation entitled Death: Is It Your Right To Choose? provokes debate around end of life choices at a time when euthanasia is undergoing scrutiny in the UK.
“Around the world, different cultures have expressed their relationship with death in a myriad of fashions, from the visual Mexican Day of the Dead to the audible lament of the Australian Aboriginal death wail,” city councillor and assistant mayor for culture Simon Cook said.
“Yet in recent times we have seen a reluctance to engage with the subject, something I hope this exhibition will help to change. Death: The Human Experience will provide visitors with an opportunity to encounter the death practices and beliefs of many world cultures whilst also being encouraged to reflect upon their own thoughts on death and the dead.”
The exhibition has already been a hit in Bristol, with thousands pouring through the doors. Here are a few of the items on display.
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