New Funeral Artifact Collection

The Museum receives new artifacts and adds to its exhibits through generous donations by people like Lee Ward. The Independence, MO resident and grief counselor at St. Mark's Catholic Church (and former funeral director) just happened to possess a priceless 15-year collection of funeral artifacts dating back to the Civil War era. In fact, A&E's American Pickers television show desired the collection, though only certain pieces, so Ward waived them off in order to keep the collection whole and donated its entirety to the Museum.

The acquisition of such impressive artifacts is an honor to NMFH. Highlights from his collection include the funeral program and embalming machine used for President Harry Truman, fascinating coffins and caskets from far-flung corners of the world, photographer-signed images of Marilyn Monroe from her famous "Last Sitting," Civil War era embalming instruments and more. Many of these items from Lee Ward’s collection are now on display within the Museum’s permanent exhibits:

  • Generational Hair Wreath, 1 of 5 in existence today
  • Death mask of General Robert E. Lee
  • An original document signed by U.S. President Martin Van Buren
  • Original funeral plan for U.S. President Harry S. Truman
  • International coffins from Switzerland, Austria and Italy
  • Surgical/medical pieces from the Civil War Era
  • Burial clothing from different time periods dating back to circa 1800