This is the newest addition to the museum’s popular permanent exhibit, Celebrating the Lives & Deaths of Popes. In addition to exploring the world of elaborate papal funerals, various papal memorabilia and a full-scale replica of Saint John Paul II’s original crypt, visitors can learn about the steps involved in becoming a saint in the Catholic church. There’s even the original Popemobile used by Pope John Paul II during the 1980s, now officially called a “Saintmobile.”
Thanks for the Memories
Celebrities spend much of their lives in the public eye, and when they pass away, their funerals are no different. This permanent exhibit is a tribute to many of those famous (and sometimes infamous) figures throughout time, including memorabilia from the lives and funerals of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston, John Wayne, Michael Jackson and more. The newest addition to this exhibit is a pair of Robin Williams’ hiking boots, worn while filming the 2006 movie RV.
Displaying an impressive collection of presidential artifacts and memorabilia throughout time, this exhibit is ideal for presidential history buffs. Starting from the early days of our country, visitors can examine the actual bill from George Washington’s funeral as well as more recent items such as the hearse that transported the bodies of Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford (pictured above). Visitors can even pay their respects to a life-size recreation of Abraham Lincoln lying in a coffin, complete with an actual lock of Lincoln’s hair (kind of creepy, I know).
A Life Well Lived: Fantasy Coffins from Ghana
This exhibit features the one-of-a-kind collection of “fantasy coffins” from Ghana, West Africa—the largest collection of its kind outside of the region. These intricate coffins (more like works of art) are sculpted to represent certain elements of the deceased’s life or desired achievements after death. This collection includes, but is not limited to, coffins shaped to resemble a Mercedes Benz, a fish, a leopard and a Yamaha outboard motor.
Hearses are some of the most recognizable symbols in many funeral traditions, and their history is not to be overlooked. This rare collection of vehicles will transport visitors through time with horse-drawn carriages from the 19th century, a 1916 Packard funeral bus, the hearse used in Grace Kelly’s funeral and more. All of the hearses featured in this exhibit were exquisitely crafted to honorably deliver the dead to their final resting places and now provide museum-goers with a truly unique historical perspective.
The History of Cremation
Teaming up with the Cremation Association of North America (yes, that’s a thing), the National Museum of Funeral History will document the growth of the cremation tradition. Videos and interactive elements will educate visitors on cremation history as well as how the deceased hope to be remembered. This exhibit is expected to open in 2018.
National Museum of Funeral History. Monday—Friday from 10 a.m.—4 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m.—5 p.m. and Sunday from noon—5 p.m. 415 Barren Springs Dr. nmfh.org