Harder Sell: Chemistry or Death?


Believe it or not, these animal sculptures are actual caskets from Ghana on display at the National Museum of Funeral History.

Here at CHF we’re sometimes tasked with a unique challenge: subverting people’s often negative reactions to the word “chemistry.” Whether it conjures bad memories of high-school classes or fears of toxic substances, getting a general audience excited to visit a chemistry museum can be a bit daunting.

So it was with great interest that I stopped by Houston’s National Museum of Funeral History last week while attending the American Association of Museums Conference. Sure, chemistry can get a bum rap, but even its biggest detractors have to admit it beats death.

But like the museum at CHF, the National Museum of Funeral History has found a way to make an off-putting subject engaging—and sometimes even light-hearted—to visitors. Take, for instance, their display of colorful animal-themed caskets from Ghana. Hard to focus on anything grim about them.

CHF is always looking for ways to connect chemistry to people’s everyday lives—revealing its role in the clothes we wear, the food we eat, or the computers we can read this blog post on. We think our efforts make browsing chemistry-related objects and art at our museum an appealing way to spend an afternoon. Would we bet our lives on that? Certainly, if we get to end up in one of those caskets.

Posted In: History

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