Fieldwork in Religion, Vol 8, No 2 (2013)

The Unclean Truth: Death at the London Metropolitan Police’s Crime Museum

Lucy Talbot
Issued Date: 26 Nov 2013

Abstract


The Metropolitan Police’s Crime Museum, famously known as the Black Museum, exhibits evidence from some of the most appalling crimes committed within English society from the late-Victorian era into modernity. Public admittance to this museum is strictly prohibited, preventing all but police staff from viewing the macabre exhibitions held within. The physical objects on display may vary, but whether the viewer is confronted with household items, weaponry or human remains, the evidence before them is undeniably associated with the immorality surrounding the performance of a socially bad death, of murder. These items have an object biography, they are both contextualized and contextualize the environment in which they reside. But one must question the purpose of such a museum, does it merely act as a Chamber of Horrors evoking the anomie of English society in physical form, or do these exhibits have an educational intent, restricted to their liminal space inside New Scotland Yard, to be used as a pedagogical tool in the development of new methods of murder investigation.

Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/firn.v8i2.175

References


Alberti, S. 2005. “Objects and the Museum,” Isis, 96.4, 559–71. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/498593
Anon. 1889. “A Real Chamber of Horrors: A Visit to the ‘Black Museum’ at Scotland-Yard,”The Pall Mall Gazette, 7653, 27 September 1889, http://newspapers11.bl.uk (accessed April, 2011).
Bonetti, R. 2007. “The Museum as an Inhabited Object,” Anthropology and Aesthetics, 52, 168–80.
Chidester, D. 2002. Patterns of Transcendence: Religion, Death and Dying. Canada: Wadsworth Group.
Cohen, M. 2002. “Death Ritual: Anthropological Perspectives,” Perspectives on Death and Dying, 7, http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/pecorip/SCCCWEB/ETEXTS/DeathandDying_TEXT/Death%20Ritual.pdf (accessed April, 2011).
Davies, D. 1997. Death, Ritual and Belief. London: Continuum.
Douglas, M. 1966. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge. http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9780203361832
Gosden, C., and Y. Marshall. 1999. “The Culture Biography of Objects,” World Archaeology, 10.2, 169–78. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00438243.1999.9980439
Hallam, E., and J. Hockey. 2001. Death, Memory and Material Culture. Oxford: Berg.
Hertz, R. 2004. Death and the Right Hand. London: Routledge.
Honeycombe, G. 2009. Murders of the Black Museum. London: John Blake Publishing.
Hooper-Greenhill, E. 2002. Museums and the Interpretation of Visual Culture. London: Routledge.
Kopytoff, I. 1986. “The Cultural Biography of Things,” in A. Appaduri, ed., The Social Life of Things. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 64–94
Maines, R., and J. Glynn. 1993. “Numinous Objects,” The Public Historian, 15.1, 8–25.
Murray, S. 2011. Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre – How We Dignify the Dead. London: Coptic Publishing.
Turner, V. 1969. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. America: Aldine Transaction.
Watts, Peter. 2009. “The Black Museum,” Timeout London, http://www.timeout.com/london/museums-attractions/features/7695/The_Black_Museum.html (accessed March, 2011).






Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email: info@equinoxpub.com

Privacy Policy