5/11/12

Exhibition Coverage: Gothic to Goth at the Allentown Art Museum

Dr. Burns presented his lecture Photographing the Dead at the Allentown Art Museum, Sunday, August 29th. The talk accompanied the exhibition Gothic to Goth, which featured 19th century mourning dresses, jewelry, photographs, embroideries and more. The Burns Collection participated with several postmortem daguerreotypes and ambrotypes as well as a mourning broach (as featured in the purple case below).

 Dr. Stanley Burns and John Pepper of The Allentown Art Museum
An overview of the exhibition featuring 19th Century mourning dresses and accessories as well as modern goth fashions.
Display case featuring postmortem images from The Burns Collection.
Needlework Mourning Picture
Allegorical Mourning Painting 'Innocence & Friendship'
Victorian Hair Work
Exhibition Introduction
Dr. Burn describing the most common pose in memorial photography: the image of a parent holding their deceased child. Child deaths were frequent in the 19th century. One out of every five children died before the age of five.
A book signing followed the lecture.
 Sample Images Discussed in the lecture:

Girl in Coffin, Ambrotype, circa 1858. From Sleeping Beauty I: Memorial Photography in America.
Mother with her Dead Twins, Ambrotype, circa 1855. From Sleeping Beauty II.
Prior to the twentieth century, multiple births frequently resulted in the death of babies. (Maternal mortality was also high, with about twenty percent of mothers dying in or soon after childbirth in the pre-antiseptic era.) This mother poses with her newborn twins. Today, an important part of the modern bereavement process is for parents to be photographed with their stillborn or neonatally deceased infant. The picture serves not only as a memorial of the child’s existence, but also as a document of its state of disease. Parents’ memories of their children’s condition at birth is usually erroneous, and over time, the abnormalities may become further exaggerated in their mind. Actually, dead children, as with these infants here, may look quite normal.

Woman with Swollen Neck in Casket, Ambrotype circa 1858. From Sleeping Beauty I: Memorial Photography in America.

To learn more about memorial photography, please view Dr. Burns' three volumes on the subject:

     



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