‘Cult of the Dead’ versus ‘Phobic of the Dead’: The role of Victorian mourning ephemera in death acceptance.

Remember Me. The Changing Face of Memorialisation

Guest-blogger Romany Reagan, PhD candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London, explores the practice of constructing mementos from the hair of deceased loved ones during the Victorian period.

Perhaps the most iconic attribute of the Victorian era is its perceived preoccupation with death and mourning. The Victorian ‘Cult of the Dead’, as it’s often been called, was not only housed in cemeteries, tombstones, horse-drawn hearses, and monuments. Mourning ephemera comprised various small portraits, mounted mourning cards, linen handkerchiefs with black borders, mourning fans of black silk, various items of mourning dress, mourning hair jewellery and art, post-mortem photography, and innumerable personal effects. Viewed through today’s values and aesthetics, these numerous personal objects are now historical rarities that are found in niche museums and personal ‘cabinets of curiosities’, which are the only places where these once commonplace and personal totems now receive due appreciation.

romany-reagan-image-1 Montage of Victorian mourning Ephemera. Image courtesy…

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