Take your students on a journey through human history, science, and culture by exploring the 15 extensive exhibits at the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston. The Museum’s exhibits are appropriate for grade school students (ages 7 and older), middle schoolers, high school students, Catholic schools, Scared Straight programs/pre-prom/pre-homecoming programs, and trade school students (barber, cosmetology, wood working/craftsmen). The Museum also provides a powerful educational environment for college and university students, especially history, sociology, psychology and political science majors, as well as medical and nursing school students taking death and dying courses, grief counseling and other training. Click here to see a map of the museum layout.
Educational Topics within the Exhibits
- Presidential Topics: The Presidential Funerals exhibit covers all presidents from George Washington through Gerald R. Ford. Groups can schedule a 30-45 minute lecture providing a behind-the-scenes look into the planning of a Presidential state funeral. The Abraham Lincoln displays are of particular note, as 2015 marks the 150th Anniversary of Lincoln’s death.
- Military History: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier exhibit and the Reflections on the Wall exhibit give students important historical perspectives and teach respect for our fallen heroes. Did you know there will never be another soldier buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? Come to the Museum to learn why.
- History of Embalming: Students can explore the Ancient Egyptians early methods of preparing the dead for the afterlife and learn the origins of modern embalming as developed on the battlefields of the Civil War within the History of Embalming exhibit.
- Evolution of the Vehicle: The Historical Hearses exhibit spans from horse-drawn carriages to hand-cranked models to motorized vehicles. Students will marvel the unique funeral bus designed for the streets of San Francisco, the hearse used in Princess Grace of Monaco’s funeral and more.
- Craftsmanship: The Coffins and Caskets of the Past exhibit features historic methods of working with wood and metals, including a recreation of a casket-building shop. Students can marvel the artistry of the Fantasy Coffins from Ghana exhibit, which features coffins crafted into elaborate shapes and figures, as well as admire the delicate details of the hand carved wooden panels of several historic hearses throughout the Museum.
Science through the Centuries
- Chemistry/Biology/Anatomy: The History of Embalming exhibit explains early embalming techniques as well as modern methods and introduces visitors to Dr. Thomas Holmes, the “father of American embalming,” and how he introduced embalming to our culture. The exhibit also covers Egyptian customs and the biological and chemical processes the body goes through immediately following the cessation of life.
Cultures, Social Customs & Language
- Memorabilia from Past Leaders, Heroes and Celebrities: The Thanks for the Memories exhibit features iconic personalities and figures, highlighting the unifying bonds of popular culture. Students can take in tributes to celebrities, sports figures, world leaders, astronauts and historical events that still impact our lives today such as the Space Shuttle Challenger, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Steve Jobs and many more.
- Customs and Traditions from Around the World: Throughout the Museum, students can learn about the cultures of the world, including the importance of Rome and The Vatican throughout history within the extensive Celebrating the Lives and Deaths of the Popes exhibit, the meaning behind Dia de los Muertos traditions from Latin America, a rare horse-drawn carriage hearse from Germany, the spiritual beliefs of West Africa through the Fantasy Coffins of Ghana exhibit, embalming practices of Ancient Egypt in the History of Embalming exhibit, an elaborate funeral car from Japan and more.
- Social Customs: Students can learn about the extensive rules of mourning etiquette practiced during the 1800s in the 19th Century Mourning exhibit, as well as why this is known as the Victorian age, even in American history.
- Vocabulary Enrichment: The Museum experience offers impactful comprehension of countless vocabulary words. After attending a workshop at the Museum, one Aldine ISD English teacher noted: a “vast array of vocabulary words can be found throughout the Museum.”
- Catholic Traditions and History: In the Celebrating the Lives and Deaths of the Popes exhibit, students can gain perspective on Catholic traditions through the centuries and discover the process of canonization, as well as learn about Vatican City, the sovereign city-state within the Italian city of Rome. Text within this exhibit appears in both English and Spanish.
Teachers and students have nothing to fear and everything to learn! Come see how our Museum can help enhance your curriculum. Explore our Exhibits pages and our Image Gallery for more insights and ideas.