While Houston has a dedicated museum district, there are a number of interesting museums that are scattered throughout the city. Outside of the main district, which houses museums such as the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and Holocaust Museum Houston, smaller, humbler museums can be found. Each of these carries its own unique, eclectic flair and is worth a visit. One example of this is the National Museum of Funeral History, located in Spring, Texas.
The National Museum of Funeral History provides a forum for open discussion about death. The main floor of the museum features a huge array of hearses, dating back into the 1800s when they were horse-drawn carriages. One section of the museum is dedicated towards celebrities that have died, including well-known names such as Marilyn Monroe, Marlin Brando, and even the Wicked Witch of the East (the official death certificate used in The Wizard of Oz is on display).
Another section of the museum is dedicated to the history of embalming, beginning with the mummification techniques of ancient Egypt and spanning through to the modern day. There are a variety of artifacts and models set up, including a recreation of a Civil War camp, which served as the first venue for battlefield embalming in modern history.
One of the more intriguing areas of the museum is dedicated towards the death and burial of the Catholic Pope. A process steeped in tradition, the exhibit uses late Pope John Paul II as an example, telling the story of his burial through images and models. The end of this section even features an authentic Popemobile on display, used by Pope John Paul II during his tenure.
A small section of the museum discusses burial rituals around the world. There is a brief focus on Día de Los Muertos, as well as several Japanese burial customs.
The final area is dedicated to the death and funeral processions of U.S. Presidents. Newspaper clippings and artifacts tell the story of various burials, including Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan.
As a topic that is often avoided, the National Museum of Funeral History allows for a safe, interesting forum to discuss death. Engagement is encouraged, and upon entering the Museum, visitors are given clipboards containing a scavenger hunt, and a 90% or higher on the hunt will earn patrons 20% off in the gift shop.
For a different, off the beaten path museum experience, this is definitely a worthwhile venture.
The Museum is open Monday through Friday 10am – 4pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm, and Sunday 12pm – 5pm.
Cost of admission is $10 per adult, $9 per senior/veteran, $7 per child over the age of three, and free for children under three years of age.