Death becomes human (last chance!)

death bristol museumDeath: the Human Experience is available now and until March 13th 2016 at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

With spectacular artefacts, it asks visitors to consider the science, ethics, attitudes and process of death, as well as the variety of ways human remains are used and the importance of end-of-life choices in contemporary society.

An interesting way to get past the taboo of thinking of death is to confront it in a colourful way. The exhibition includes mummified body parts, coffins from around the world, Japanese watercolours, mourning clothes, grave goods and much more. They show how death has been treated from the earliest human civilisations to modern day societies and pose questions including, when is death; what happens to us after we die; and what symbols do we use to understand death.

Councillor and Assistant Mayor, Simon Cook explained, “Around the world, different cultures have expressed their relationship with death in a myriad of fashions from the visual Mexican Day of the Dead to the audible lament of the Australian Aboriginal death wail. Yet in recent times we have seen a reluctance to engage with the subject, something I hope this exhibition will help to change. death: the human experience will provide visitors with an opportunity to encounter the death practices and beliefs of many world cultures whilst also being encouraged to reflect upon their own thoughts on death and the dead.”

The displays include a re-creation of a room at the Dignitas flat near Zurich. Called death: is it your right to choose? it is intended to encourage debate and discussion around end of life choices during a time when end of life laws and guidance are undergoing scrutiny. The reproduction of the room is surrounded by displays relating to the wider spectrum of opinions on Assisted Dying including personal testimonies.

A variety of experts including palliative care doctors, university medical ethics professors and Dignitas themselves have been consulted during the development of the display, as well as organisations such as Dying Matters, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, and Society for Old Age Rational Suicide. Visitors to the installation will be encouraged to explore their own feelings on the subject, guided by medical, ethical, philosophical and emotive elements, before giving their response on whether assisted dying be made legal in the UK.

All the knowledge in the world won’t help if one is afraid of the moment when “the lights go out . . .”

What does it have to do with self-euthanasia you might ask? Are there displays of helium hood kits and demonstrations of the compression method? Well, no (and at least not planned, as far as we know at the time of writing). But the answer of course is fairly simple: quite apart from the fact that not everyone can afford £10,000 to have assisted suicide in Switzerland – all the knowledge of self-deliverance in the world won’t help if one is still afraid of dying itself, of the moment, “when the lights go out.”

 

 

 

Exhibition details:
24 October 2015 – 13 March 2016
Monday – Friday, 10am–5pm
Weekends 10am–6pm
Entry: Pay What You Think
Last entry 30 minutes before closing
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery: Queens Rd, Bristol BS8 1RL

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