Sunday, January 08, 2006
hennepin history museum
the sun made a brief appearance on saturday. people didn't know what it was and they were frightened. fortunately it quickly vanished again.
it was just starting to snow when i got to the hennepin history museum -- a dark, gothic building that smells of very old things. upstairs the post mortem photo room is even darker.
it's a perfect setting for the current collection called A SEMBLANCE OF LIFE -- THE ART AND CULTURE OF THE POST MORTEM PHOTOGRAPH. 1850s - 1940s.
i've seen a lot of post mortem photos, but i don't believe i've seen ones in which the children are posed with live siblings in an attempt to make the dead child look awake and alive. i guess so the family could hang the image on the wall and pretend it had been taken before death.
a sad delusion.
so many post mortem photos were taken with the dead child appearing to be asleep that it actually became taboo to take a photo of a sleeping child. that taboo wasn't broken until cameras became a household item.
notice anything odd about this photo?
if you guessed the mother is dead, you're right. it's a chillingly strange twist on the more common construction of live mother and dead infant.
i stared at this photo until i started to feel dizzy. a mannequin in a black mourning dress startled me and for a moment i thought i wasn't alone. it was at least eighty-five degrees in there, and i was wearing a winter coat. all easily explained. really.
if you live in the minneapolis area, the show closes in about a week and a half. two bucks to get in.