A Museum of the Dead, for the Living

by Z-Berens-Firth

This 1916 Packard Funeral Bus, on display at NMFH, was built to hold a casket, pallbearers and 20 mourners. It could be driven both on the road or on the rails.

When Houston, Texas comes to mind one may think of the Astrodome or perhaps NASA and the Johnson Space Center but few people know that Houston is also the home of the National Museum of Funeral History (NMFH). Located in the heart of the Lone Star state, the NMFH is the most prominent funeral home museum in North America, perhaps even the world.

Housed in its over 35,000 sq. ft. complex, are artifacts outlining funeral history from around the globe. It partnered with the Vatican in 2005 for a special exhibit “Celebrating the Lives and Deaths of the Popes”. Using authentic items directly from the Vatican, this exhibit garnered worldwide attention. It displays the original popemobile used by Pope John Paul II in the 1980s, and has numerous historical artifacts. In order to accommodate this exhibit, a 10,000 sq. ft. expansion onto the existing building was built.

The Museum was the brainchild of Robert Waltrip, a funeral director who felt a museum dedicated to the death-care industry would enlighten the public to the practices and traditions of funerals. It was founded in 1992, and is constantly growing.

Numerous other exhibits include “Historical Hearses”, “History of Embalming”, “Presidential Funerals”, “Day of the Dead” and many more. If Texas seems like too far to go, their website contains photos with information on each exhibit.


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