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The Museum for Sepulchral Culture has existed as a cultural institution of national importance since 1992 and is the only institution in the world that is committed exclusively to cultural and scientific standards and deals with death in all its facets. The term "sepulchral culture" is derived from the Latin "sepulcrum" and means grave, burial place. The term covers all manifestations that have developed in connection with dying, death, burial, mourning and commemoration: burial and mourning rites and customs, but also artistic views of dying and death. Dying, burial, mourning and commemoration have been subject to major changes in practice and their public perception for two decades. The museum offers special opportunities to explore, contextualise and communicate these processes.
The Museum for Sepulchral Culture has existed as a cultural institution of national importance since 1992 and is the only institution in the world that is committed exclusively to cultural and scientific standards and deals with death in all its facets. The term "sepulchral culture" is derived from the Latin "sepulcrum" and means grave, burial place. The term covers all manifestations that have developed in connection with dying, death, burial, mourning and commemoration: burial and mourning rites and customs, but also artistic views of dying and death.
Dying, burial, mourning and commemoration have been subject to major changes in practice and their public perception for two decades. The museum offers special opportunities to explore, contextualise and communicate these processes.
The permanent exhibition presents numerous exhibits from the Christian Occidental sepulchral culture: last shirts, reapers, hourglasses, medieval funeral dances, artistically painted coffins and skulls to mourning jewellery and hearse. They are predominantly part of everyday and utility culture and document the strategies of people in dealing with finiteness.
In addition, the museum provides exemplary insights into the burial rites of various religions and cultures in Germany. The topic of burials of migrants in German cemeteries has become increasingly important in recent years, and this is also reflected in the burial culture. They all have their own burial forms and rituals.
Since its foundation in 1954, the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Friedhof und Denkmal e.V. (Study Group Cemetery and Monument) has been the leading cultural institution in the field of cemetery and funeral culture in Germany. With more than 65 years of experience and a membership structure that includes a wide range of professions, the Arbeitsgemeinschaft has become a unique international network with outstanding expertise.
The members of the association are active in research and science, garden and landscape planning, grave and tomb design, funeral services, cemetery administration, social services and palliative and hospice work. Therefore, the working group is a competent partner in all questions of cemetery, funeral and mourning culture.
The Study Group sees itself as a forum for the discussion of current developments and as a platform for the presentation of future-oriented projects. It is committed to the preservation and protection of traditional forms of cemetery and funeral culture, where they are integrated into social life as a component of cultural identity. The working group focuses on the professional groups that are confronted with dying, death, mourning and remembrance in their daily work. For people from these occupational groups, the Study Group offers counselling and further training in various formats.
These include advice on the planning and design of cemeteries, the design of gravestones and questions of cemetery law. The seminars and advanced training courses include, for example, offers for people from the helping professions, on the practice of burial and a customer-oriented approach to relatives, on the design of cemeteries and graves and on the conception of cemetery tours. Extensive conferences on topics from the field of cemetery and burial culture take place regularly.
The members of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Friedhof und Denkmal e. V. are united by their interest in the manifold aspects of sepulchral culture. Motivation for a membership in the association is, for example, the commitment to the preservation and care of cultural-historical evidence of the sepulchral culture, the work on new design concepts or the intention to integrate the cultural values of the association into the professional field of activity as well as scientific research.
The Central Institute for Sepulchral Culture conducts basic research through scientific studies of historical cemeteries, grave signs, event-related and personal monuments, mourning and burial customs, developments in dealing with dying and death as well as research into development trends. With the Museum for Sepulchral Culture, the Central Institute is today a recognised research centre in the German museum landscape and is also regularly involved in scientific national and international conferences. Scientific conferences are regularly held with various cooperation partners, e.g. universities.
It is the editor of the Kasseler Studien zur Sepulkralkultur (Kassel Studies on Sepulchral Culture) (currently 19 volumes) and the Kasseler Manuskripte zur Sepulkralkultur (Kassel manuscripts on Sepulchral Culture), the large encyclopaedia on burial and cemetery culture (four volumes to date) and is responsible for the publication of the magazine Zeitschrift für Sepulkralkultur /Friedhof und Denkmal (Magazine for Sepulchral Culture/ Cemetery and Monument). The Central Institute is also responsible for a scientific library, a photo and music archive.
Duration: 12. June 2020 – 6. September 2020
Preview for journalists at 12th June 2020
from 10.00 am to 8.00 pm by appointment!
In everything our world is networked. We live on a planet and experience how fruitful and at the same time unpredictable global exchange is. Flora and fauna, water, air, oceans, climate and of course people and their goods circulate; and this – as has been the case for centuries – is also accompanied by pathogens. Structures of all kinds form and network and are in permanent contact. Parallel to this, processes of decomposition are constantly taking place, for life is change and a constant coexistence of beginning and end.
The sculptor Marco Di Carlo (born 1980) will fill the Museum for Sepulchral Culture with structures made of cables and objects as part of the final exhibition of his Georg Meistermann Fellowship. He incorporates organic material from found objects into his work and arranges his installations as a symbolic coexistence of interpenetrating nature, technology and culture. Wood, bones or furs regain moments of their vitality in a fantastic way through their integration into a fabric of cables and electronic components. Di Carlo's works play with the ambivalence of our existence. We perceive death and life as different states, but from an evolutionary perspective these two categories so familiar to us make little sense, because so-called life consists simultaneously of countless processes of networking and decomposition of molecules. Human beings are part of this and do the same with these processes. He uses his abilities as a homo faber, as a creating and therein inventing living being, but the arrogance of the technically creating leads him again and again to the limits of the possible. In the realization of human limitations towards nature and the cosmos there is the chance of humility towards our existence, which can only be borne in a holistic understanding of the world. And so we too network and disintegrate in the hope of mental, aesthetic or technical developments. These hopefully do not only lead us to the edge of exhaustion, but in the acceptance of our finiteness let us also understand and celebrate life in its essence. We are finite because we live, and we create because the awareness of our finiteness enables us to do so.
The exhibition is supported by
Vernissages, special events, public guided tours or group tours will not take place until further notice.
Period: 15th November 2019 – 15th March 2020
An exhibition with interdisciplinary accompanying program at the Museum for Sepulchral Culture, Kassel
In the interdisciplinary and multimedia exhibition LAMENTO, the Museum of Sepulchral Culture dedicates itself to the collective and individual experience of grief, loss and remembrance through a selection of international contemporary artworks, a film program, readings, a panel discussion, concerts and an intervention in public space. In the context of the museum's collection, interventions as well as formal and content-related references are created.
An exhibition with interdisciplinary accompanying program at the Museum for Sepulchral Culture, Kassel
The history of humanity is marked by transformation processes and traumatic experiences of loss. Natural disasters, wars, accidents, flight, illness, epidemics and old age confront mankind with its finiteness, with death. Constant privations challenge humanity to cope with and accept changes and losses by practicing and living different cultural forms of mourning, remembrance and commemoration for generations. Religious and ideological traditions, private emotionality and social prestige are driving forces that continually give new forms of expression to the sepulchral culture. In this triad, a normative model of ceremonial farewell and commemoration rituals developed over the centuries, which continues to have an effect into the 21st century, albeit in a reduced and transformed form, and which was significantly influenced by bureaucratic regulation and technical-hygienic rationality in dealing with the corpse. Historically, the culture of mourning and remembrance following the experience of loss is in a state of constant change, reflecting and representing contemporary historical, social, political and ideological phenomena.
The Museum for Sepulchral Culture is dedicated to the collective and individual experience of mourning, loss and remembrance in the interdisciplinary and multimedia exhibition series LAMENTO, with a selection of international contemporary artworks, a film programme, readings, a panel discussion, concerts and interventions in public space.
The collection of the Museum for Sepulchral Culture houses written and pictorial testimonies that make mourning culture comprehensible and objects that accompany sepulchral rituals and ceremonies. These historical sources of the museum form the cultural and historical reference room for the artistic works. On the one hand, already existing works are specifically selected for the exhibition and related to objects in the collection, and on the other hand, the invited artists* have the opportunity to research in the context of the museum's collection, to refer to specific pieces of the collection and to develop new works in correspondence with historical artefacts.
In the multimedia exhibition series LAMENTO, graphic works, photographs, videos, sculptures, conceptual works and interventions on advertising spaces in public space will address the atmospheric facets of mourning, remembering and commemoration. The exhibitions will be accompanied by a publication that will give visitors access to the works and themes of the exhibition.
The programme accompanying the exhibition will expand and supplement the interdisciplinary debate on the topics of mourning in the form of discussion rounds/panels and lectures. Since the proportion of people with a migration background in Kassel is 39%, which is above the national average of about 23.6%, we would like to invite representatives of different cultures and religions to participate in an interreligious dialogue.
The curatorial team of the exhibition is the art historian and director of the Museum for Sepulchral Culture, Dr. Dirk Pörschmann, the artist Ella Ziegler, the folklorist Dr. Ulrike Neurath and the art educator Gerold Eppler M.A.
Dr. Dirk Pörschmann, director and curator, Museum for Sepulchral Culture
The exhibition is supported by the Hessische Kulturstiftung, the Stiftung Deutsche Bestattungskultur and the Kasseler Sparkasse.
The following artistic positions are presented in the exhibition LAMENTO I – Mourning and Tears in the Museum for Sepulchral Culture:
Bas Jan Ader (NL) / I'am to sad to tell you, 1971 (film projection, postcard) Mathilde ter Heijne (NL) / Lament, Song for Transitions, 2014 (video) Ella Ziegler (DE) / Stone from Tears of a Deer, 2018 (video) Nina Jansen (DE) / Untitled (embroidered handkerchief) (object) Dieter Roth (CH) / Das Tränenmeer (ads in daily newspaper) Nancy Borowick (US) / The Family Imprint
1. Nancy Borowick, „The embrace“,
from „The Family Imprint“, 2017
© Nancy Borowick
2. Shawl: "Freud- und Leidtuch", Mitte 19.Jh.
Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel
Volkskundesammlung, photo: Mirja Loewe
3. Exhibition view: © photo Maja Wirkus. Museum für Sepulkralkultur, Bildarchiv
background: Video work by Bas Jan Ader „I’m too sad to tell you“, Bas Jan Ader © The Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. All rights reserved
front: Trauertrachten (mourning dresses), Lindhorst, 19 Jh.
4. Exhibition view: © photo Maja Wirkus. Museum für Sepulkralkultur, Bildarchiv
background: Video work by Mathilde ter Heijne „Lament, Song for Transitions, 2010
front: „Tränenkrüglein“, Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel Volkskundesammlung
5. Urs Lüthi, „Lüthi weint auch für sie“
© Urs Lüthi, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
6. Nina Jansen, Ohne Titel, 2002
© Nina Jansen, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
7. Pieta, southern Germany, around 1500
© Photo Frank Hellwig: Museum für Sepulkralkultur, Bildarchiv
15. February 2010 – 15. March 2020
An exhibition by Claus Maywald
with contributions from Chris Paul and Felix Pestemer
The starting point of the exhibition "... gib mir den Ort" is the volume of poetry "Monolog" ("Monologue"). In it Claus Maywald speaks to his daughter Lara, who died at the age of six. In this "Monolog" Claus Maywald experiences the facets of mourning. Chris Paul, the Social Behavioral Scientist and director of the TrauerInstitut Deutschland, described these in her Kaleidoscope of Mourning. The artist and illustrator Felix Pestemer translated the ups and downs of Claus Maywald's path of mourning into large-format soul pictures.
These reflect how difficult it is for those affected to realize the loss and live with the pain. Claus Maywald's search for places where he could "rediscover" his daughter Lara is thus also a search for the meaning of untimely death.
A version of "... gib mir den Ort" can be borrowed as a travelling exhibition.
1. "Deine Sonne" (your sun)
drawing: Felix Pestemer, photo: Frank Hellwig
© Felix Pestemer
2. "... aber den Schmerz kann ich spüren".
drawing: Felix Pestemer, photo: Frank Hellwig
© Felix Pestemer
2. Cover of the catalogue "...gib mir den Ort" by Claus Maywald, drawing: Felix Pestemer
© Claus Maywald
18. March 2020
In mid-February 2020, our new website went online after over a half year of conceptual and editorial work. Ten years have passed since the last relaunch, and since then user habits and also the technical possibilities have changed. The relaunch not only takes into account a contemporary presentation through a comprehensive technical revision, but also opens a view of the constant work of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Friedhof und Denkmal e. V. (Study Group Cemetery and Monument) and the Museum and Central Institute for Sepulchral Culture. Thanks to the modern, clear and concise design, extensive content is available more quickly – even for an international audience.
The responsive design is optimized for all screen sizes, from smartphone to desktop. Large and alternating images and videos guide through the website.
The restructuring of the website gives each of the three areas of the museum, research and the society its own space, thus reflecting their interconnectedness. The different fields of activity are presented in an uncomplicated and user-friendly way. Through multiple cross-references and the consolidation of all the latest news and events from the research activity and the activities of museum and society on the start page, their connection, above all, becomes publicly perceptible. The new structure is not hierarchical, but rather networked and offers quick access for visitors* with different interests and concerns.
In addition to providing up-to-date information, the redesign of the website's content is a step towards the transparency of our current work. For the interested visitor, but also for journalists and researchers, a comprehensive archive of exhibitions and events provides a review of our history and our vision for the future. Our colleagues will report on current projects, offer insight behind the scenes and present special new acquisitions. The accessibility of the library, photo archive and magazine will also be more in focus than before.
The consistent translation of the website into English will do justice to our growing international audience. With this and the expanded content, the website should also be a valuable resource for those who are not able to visit the museum.
Designing and technically implementing the new website was a matter close to my heart, as I already appreciated the Museum for Sepulchral Culture when I was a student in Kassel. The special challenge in developing websites for museums is that the focus is not on the creation and definition of design elements, but rather on the development of a consistent, flexible layout concept and a visual language that arouses curiosity without distracting from the exhibits on display, according to designer and web designer Thorsten Groeger from Hamburg-Altona / www.stilwechsel.de.
Jutta Lange and Tatjana Ahle
Project management Relaunch
Jutta Lange, art historian, is mainly responsible for communication and editing, inter alia, at the Museum for Sepulchral Culture.
Tatjana Ahle, cultural and religious studies and art, has been working at the museum since March 2019; since September 2019 as part of the KiWIT Trainee Program of the Genshagen Foundation.
29. November 2019
The Museum for Sepulchral Culture in Kassel, which opened in 1992, receives 50 percent of the investment costs (total costs 14 million euros) from federal funds, which are necessary for the new concept of the permanent exhibition, energy-saving renovation and expansion of the functional areas. The funds are provided from the budget of the Commissioner for Culture and Media, Minister of State Prof. Monika Grütters.
Prof. Monika Grütters: "The Museum for Sepulchral Culture lives from its unusual issue. It has thus developed into an extraordinary place of culture and remembrance and impressively proves that the themes of dying, death, mourning and burial are an integral part of our culture. With this elementary topic, the museum appeals to all of us without distinction. When it comes to the great question of the beginning and end of life, to thoughtfulness, contemplation and transcendence, it always touches its visitors deeply. Because of the importance of this theme, the Swiss Confederation is happy to participate in the renovation of the museum."
The Museum for Sepulchral Culture has existed as a cultural institution of national importance since 1992 and was affiliated to the Central Institute for Sepulchral Culture, which was founded in 1979. The museum focuses on the topic of funeral culture and illustrates continuities and breaks in dealing with dying, death, burial, mourning and remembrance. Architecturally, the museum consists of the historical existing building – the former shed of the Henschel villas (1903/1904) – and the adjoining new museum building, which combines both units into a significant ensemble in terms of urban development.
After almost three decades of operation, this unique museum needs a new concept for its permanent exhibition that reflects the current state of social discourse and scientific research. In addition, a fundamental renovation is required, and in particular an elementary improvement of the air conditioning and ventilation technology to meet the energy and conservation requirements of contemporary museum operations.
Director Dr. Dirk Pörschmann: "The fact that our museum is now receiving financial support for the urgently needed updates to the permanent exhibition and the renovation and extension work is a great fortune and a credit to the whole team. In many years of creative and constant work, the Museum for Sepulchral Culture has established itself as a unique institution nationwide. We work for society by bringing the themes of dying, death, burial and mourning into people's consciousness in a variety of ways."
The new conception of the content conveys the multifaceted relationship between man and death. This is illustrated in particular against the background of demographic development and migration movements by current multicultural, ethical, sociological, medical, socio-psychological, theological and scientific aspects in dealing with dying and death.
Kassel's SPD member of the Bundestag Timon Gremmels and Kassel's Lord Mayor Christian Geselle did not miss the opportunity to attend the opening evening of the exhibition "LAMENTO. Trauer und Tränen" (15.11.2019) to share with the assembled audience their great joy about the approval of federal funding. In addition, budget funds have already been promised by the City of Kassel. Susanne Völker, head of the Department of Culture, emphasized: "The Museum for Sepulchral Culture occupies a special position in the German museum landscape. With its focus on content, the museum touches on central aspects of human existence, which are often given little space in our modern society. Since its foundation 27 years ago, the museum has continually opened up innovative, informative and life-affirming perspectives through a wide range of exhibitions and events. I am pleased that the Museum of Sepulchral Culture is now being given a perspective for modernization and contemporary development".
Negotiations are currently taking place with the museum's institutional sponsor, the State of Hesse, in order to have planning security soon. Eva Kühne-Hörmann, Hesse's Minister of Justice and Kassel CDU chairwoman, said that the museum is, in addition to the documenta, "another cultural institution unique in Germany", which has its headquarters in Kassel. From 2017 to 2018, the Protestant Church of Germany (EKD) and the Association of German Dioceses (VDD) had provided financial support for the development of the "Vision for the Future" which is now available. The Museum for Sepulchral Culture hopes to receive further support from the two Christian churches in the area of the costs of setting up the updated permanent exhibition, as well as from a wide range of sponsors and donors, in order to be able to raise the necessary own contribution.
28. August 2019
As part of the competence network KIWit (Cultural Integration and Knowledge Transfer), the Genshagen Foundation, with its activities for the diversity-aware promotion of young talent, wants to make a concrete contribution to making the personnel structure of cultural institutions more diverse. The Museum for Sepulchral Culture is one of ten selected institutions participating in the KIWit trainee programme. On September 1st, 2019, the position was filled by Tatjana Ahle (religious and cultural studies; art). She will especially support us in the development of an intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
A key question in the redesign of our permanent exhibition is
How can we develop the new permanent exhibition in such a way that the diverse perspectives and cultures it contains are included in the development of the presentation?
The museum's collection is based on objects from Christian Western culture. The focus of the previous permanent exhibition therefore lies primarily in this field of sepulchral culture. Objects from the 15th century to the present day show how people in Germany buried, mourned and remembered the deceased. With new developments in burial culture, topics such as cremation or the contemporary artistic treatment of one's own finiteness have been added - mostly with a focus on Christians living in Germany. Since 2014, funeral forms from other religions and cultures (Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) have also been presented. The exhibition was developed from a Christian-Western perspective, which looks at the "other" in supposedly foreign cultures. In the future, the conceptual cooperation with people from these very groups will be established, so that they can contribute their experiences in the field of sepulchral culture. Together, concrete ways of realizing forms of their burial and mourning culture in the museum are to be worked out and thus contribute to a diversity-oriented orientation of the museum. The main goal is to stabilize the intercultural and religious exchange and to establish the museum permanently as a place that visualizes multicultural aspects in dealing with dying and death against the background of migration.
The KIWit trainee programme of the Genshagen Foundation is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.
Arbeitsgemeinschaft Friedhof und Denkmal e.V.
Zentralinstitut für Sepulkralkultur
Museum für Sepulkralkultur
D-34117 Kassel | Germany
Tel. +49 (0)561 918 93-0