History

From Dream to World Renowned Collection

The National Museum of Funeral History was founded in 1992 in Houston, Texas. The idea for the Museum grew from Robert L. Waltrip’s 25-year dream of establishing an institution to educate the public and preserve the heritage of death care. The groundbreaking in February 1992 was followed later that year by the opening of a 20,500-square-foot facility for housing artifacts of the funeral services industry; items Mr. Waltrip had realized were otherwise being discarded. The Museum became a place to collect and preserve the history of the industry, including how it began and how it has evolved over time. The first major exhibit was a collection of vintage hearses, which continues to expand and fascinate visitors.

The Museum has grown over the decades through generous donations and acquisitions of significant items that document the history of the industry. With over 30,500 sq. ft. of exhibit space today, the Museum has become the largest educational center on funerary customs in the United States and perhaps the world. Thousands of visitors each year explore the Museum’s 14 permanent exhibits on a broad spectrum of funeral-related topics ranging from the ancient embalming rituals of Egypt to remembering celebrities and public figures.

In 2005, the Museum began its collaboration with the Vatican for what has become its hallmark exhibit, Celebrating the Lives and Deaths of the Popes. A collection of authentic items were acquired by the Museum for display, including the Popemobile (now known as the Saintmobile) used by Saint John Paul II in 1982, original uniforms worn by The Swiss Guard (responsible for the Pope's personal security) and vestments from Gammarelli’s, the tailor shop in Rome, which has clothed the last seven Popes. A 10,000 sq. ft. expansion of the Museum took place to accommodate the 5,000 sq. ft. exhibit, which opened in 2008, featuring premium sound and lighting, three-dimensional scenes and audio/visual multi-media presentations providing visitors with a true sense of attending a Pope's funeral and the sacred traditions that are observed when a pope dies.

Currently, the Museum is planning additional exhibits, as well as expansion of its current exhibits and programs. Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest updates.