History of Embalming

Observe how—and ponder why—the Ancient Egyptians developed embalming rituals more than 5000 years ago and learn about the utter necessity of preserving bodies during the Civil War. This exhibit tracks the methods of preserving human remains through the centuries. Model objects and tools used in the mummification process, as well as pictorial displays and renderings depict the mysterious rituals of ancient Egypt, where the Egyptians mummified their dead to preserve them for the afterlife. The exhibit also details the work of Dr. Thomas Holmes, deemed the "father of American embalming," with a full-scale recreation of his embalming station on the Civil War battlefield. Also in the exhibit, a typical mid-1900s embalming room features authentic equipment and instruments from the era. The equipment required for embalming was so extensive that observers frequently commented on how the process was “quite an undertaking,” leading to the use of the term “undertaker.”