Exclusive Preview, Photos: “Beyond the Dark Veil: Post­Mortem and Mourning Photography from The Thanatos Archive”

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November 2nd, on the heels of Halloween, on the Day of the Dead and All Souls Day, November 2, Cal State Fullerton’s Begovich Gallery opens “Beyond the Dark Veil: Post­Mortem and Mourning Photography from The Thanatos Archive,” a haunting and sublime exploration of love and loss featuring Victorian post-mortem and mourning photography from the Thantos Archive.

I was honored to visit the beautiful dead, resplendent as they rest in peace, captured in early photographs from the 1800s at the Begovich Gallery in a preview to Saturday’s opening. “Beyond the Dark Veil” will be up through December 12.

Organized in six different sections–pre-mortem/deathbed; adults; children & family; pets; crime/murder/tragedy; and mourning/ephemera–“Beyond the Dark Veil” is curated by Jacqueline Ann Bunge Barger, who worked with Jack Mord of The Thanatos Archives to select images from the archive they felt were the most poignant or relevant to both the exhibition and the detailed catalog which is currently in preparation. Included witht he photographs are stereoscopes, elaborate funeral cards, news clippings, sculptures, and jewelry, resplendent and glowing in the grey and oxblood rooms.  In an email interview with CARTWHEEL, Bunge Barger wrote about the effort in assembling “Beyond the Dark Veil”  and many delicate pieces:

I have been working with Jack for over a year on this project. We corresponded almost daily for over a year to make this exhibition happen. The age and fragile nature of the objects was a main concern. We actually sent one of our graduate students, Martha Rocha and our gallery tech/preparator, Martin Lorigan to The Thanatos Archive in Washington to pack the work. I wanted to send someone I trusted to handle this work properly. The safety of the objects has always been the first and main priority for me.

While in graduate school, Bunge Barger–who has a small collection of mourning jewelry, ephemera, and vintage coffin plates, and primarily collects vintage and contemporary Halloween decor–wrote her thesis on the importance of post-mortem photography, researching this genre of photography from the invention of photography to the present.

Essentially, this is my dream exhibition, dealing with a subject that I am very passionate about. Mainly, I wanted this collection to be shared with the public, so that people would be aware that these photos and objects exist. Many people are unaware of this type of photography and mourning ephemera and it was important for me to be able to bring this exhibition to Cal State University, Fullerton, an an alum of the University and a current staff member. The images are not only rare, but having a collector who was willing to lend a large portion of his collection is even more rare. Without Jack, and his generous loan of the objects, this exhibition would never have happened.

And would she ever want this type photos made of herself of a loved one?

Yes to both…absolutely.

And after viewing the images in “Beyond the Dark Veil,” you may feel the same way.

*  *  *
The Begovich Gallery will produce a full color publication, available early 2014, which will feature essays (including one by Marion Peck), images, and historical background information on photography and memorial practices that relate to the memorial and post mortem images included in the exhibition.

For more about “Beyond the Dark Veil: Post­Mortem and Mourning Photography from The Thanatos Archive,” please see our calendar listing at the link.

Beyond the Dark Veil: Post­Mortem and Mourning Photography from The Thanatos Archive,”
Opening reception, Saturday November 2, 2013; 5pm to 8pm
Begovich Gallery
800 North State College Boulevard
California State University Fullerton
Fullerton, CA 92831
Phone: 657-278.7750
Gallery hours: Monday through Thursday, noon to 4 pm; Saturday, noon to 2pm
Admission is free; parking is ranges from $2-$8.

Convenient parking is located at the intersection of Arts Dr. and St. College Blvd. in the Nutwood Parking Structure (NPS). Parking is free Friday evenings (after 5 pm) and all day Saturday. Monday through Friday afternoon, parking is $8 (exact change required) or $2 per hour in Pay and Park spaces, located just inside and to the left of the Arts Dr. entrance to the structure.

Parking is to your right, the galleries are to your left in the Visual Arts complex (VA Buildings). For more details, please visit the Cal State Fullerton General Parking Information page.

IMG_3535Embossed funeral card

IMG_3540Family members often posed with the departed.

IMG_3538Mourning ephemera

IMG_3532Grave site memorabilia


IMG_3531Pets were beloved in life and immortalized in pictures after their death

IMG_3539Mourning sculpture, jewelry and photos

IMG_3533Marble sarcophagus for a blue bird, the family pet still entombed in its final resting place.

Jackie_Civil_War_HBCurator Bunge Barger in Civil War mourning garb.


  1. Jacqui Server-Garcia
    November 2, 2013

    Thank you for sharing your photos. I find strange and the same time beautiful.

  2. Rosemary Ramirez
    November 13, 2013

    I find this very amazing & sad, Thank you….


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