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The Bestattungsmuseum in Vienna (Funeral Museum)

The Bestattungsmuseum in Vienna is a fascinating place. The Municipal Funeral Service of Vienna is solely in charge of death in the city and surrounding regions, and they perform all the functions from mortuary to burial. The museum collection is very difficult to photograph due to the darkness inside (how appropriate!), so the photos do not do the collection justice. The cultural anthropolgist in charge of the tours, as well as the designer of the exhibits, is named Vittigo and he is absolutely fascinating. Tours are available by appointment only but are solely in German.

I won't get into an exhaustive study of the history if funerals in Vienna - there are loads of resources on the web and books available. Suffice it to say, this is a collection worth the trip to Vienna alone, and I go there nearly every time I'm visiting, which is at least once a year! One benefit of being married to a Viennese!

Victorian Funeral "pearl work" wreath

Madame Recamier and the coffin designed for her which is foldable.

Funeral livery clothing.

Funeral livery clothing.

Widow's wear (for professional mourners specifically).

Funeral livery hat.

Funeral pearl work wreath.

Contraption to ensure that no one was buried alive - a string was tied around corpse's wrist leading to a bell above-ground which would alert gravediggers when rung. If they didn't answer, a dagger was provided in the coffin so the unfortunate person could stab themselves to death.

More Victorian pearl work.

For an extra fee, mortitians would stab the body several times to make sure it was dead.

Victorian hearse.

Funeral jewels.

Funeral crown for the upper crust.

Funeral parade moving panorama for children (how I would have loved one!).

Death mask of Josef Haydn.

One of the famous Halstatt painted skulls. The current gravedigger, a woman, is in charge of painting all the skulls now.

Trapdoor coffin for partial bodies - families couldn't bear the idea of not having a full-size coffin for their loved one, so this was invented.

Decorations for a child's grave.

Child's burial gown.

Memento Mori box meant to be kept in your sight to remind you of the fleeting nature of life.

Funeral coach lamp.

For an extra fee, the coffin would be outfitted with a lock that only the spouse could use.

Victorian paper cut-out.

"One Way" promotional poster for the museum.

Victorian Holy Card options.

Painted metal sign for grave with quotations.

Cremation urns available today, including the 3 Jungenstil options in the middle.

A new option available - turn your loved one into a diamond! For several thousand Euros, you can have a diamond of up to 1.25 carats made from the remains of your loved one. The process is fascinating - a portion of the ashes are put into a sealed contraption and after at least 8 months, with enormous pressure inside the machine, a diamond grows.

The first attempt at cremation was done in Vienna - these are the remains of a horse.

Toy for children of the trolleys that carried several coffins to the graveyard at once.

More Victorian pearl-work.

Coffin (which was built on-site) being taken to a memorial service while we were there.

Facade of the Funeral complex now.


Kriminalmuseum, Vienna

The Kriminalmuseum is located in the Leopoldstadt District, the old Jewish Quarter of Vienna. It is devoted to showcasing crime from the Middle Ages to the present. The house itself dates from 1685 and was owned by a former policeman who purchased the entire contents shown within from the police department and private citizens of Vienna over the years (the family still resides there). Once considered the pre-eminent crime solving body in the world, consulted by countries including the US to solve its hardest crimes, the Vienna Police Department had to disperse its forensic archives during WWII. All this evidence was stored in warehouses throughout the city to avoid detection by the Nazis, and after the war was never fully put back together. But as items surfaced, they were purchased for this collection. It is the largest private collection of forensic evidence in the world. Interesting to note, the Vienna Police were the first to develop certain crime scene and crime solving analytic tools, including taking molds of body parts of known criminals to use in identifying the perpetrators of outstanding crimes. They developed the first fingerprinting techniques, crime scene kits and the use of certain chemicals to reveal blood stains.

Now for my personal impressions. The rooms are dark and difficult to photograph, and all the information is in German (naturally). Having my own personal German-speaking tour guide (my husband) forced me to pay attention to the history of crime in Vienna rather than ogling the rather fantastic items within. Of particular fascination to me were the newspaper etchings of the victims of the crimes - surreal, beautiful, artful and yet unsentimental. Worth the trip alone and a nice antidote to the gruesome and nauseating items that fill out the collection.

Photos in order: Actual hair of murdered child; Nazi arrest warrant; first crime scene kit; hangman's toy; early ear molds to identify criminals; popular news sheet on famous crime of murdered woman; bloody handprint from crime scene; toy with crime theme; skull of murder victim depicted; skull of murder victim; packet of poison found at crime scene; dynamite box found at criminal's house; early bombs (next 2); skull of murdered twin; crime scene diagram showing location of body; drawings of crime victim for newspapers; drawing of crime taking place for newspapers; evidence found at crime scene; drawing of decapitated head of victim; next two - paintings depicting famous crimes of the time; sword with interesting hand details; torture mask; drawing of dismembered woman for newspapers; depictions of hangings.

All photos taken at Kriminalmuseum, Vienna by me, May, 2010.