Online lecture looks at ornate, macabre ways Victorians mourned death

They also dealt with death and dying during a pandemic

Online lecture looks at ornate, macabre ways Victorians mourned death

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Dr. Michaela Howells, a human biologist whose work focuses on the intersection of biology and culture, will lead a discussion on how the Victorians mourned and remembered the lives of their loved ones. “The Good Death: Victorian Mourning Rituals” is an online discussion led by Howells and hosted by the Bellamy Mansion Museum.

Howell said the Victorians were faced with a rapidly changing world and high mortality rates due to the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

Mourning a death was a detail-oriented process, from clothing and jewelry, death portraits to dolls and picnics in graveyards.

“The Victorians were especially interested in this idea of a good death," Howell said. “They had many ornate cultural components associated with death, anywhere from jewelry that’s made out of the deceased persons hair and in some cases the disease person’s fake eyeballs have been made into rings. There’s very specific clothing that’s expected to be worn at different stages of healing and mourning. It’s a code socially to be able to indicate where you are in your mourning process.”

Howells works as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UNCW.

“As anthropologists, we are in a position to ask questions about humanity and the human life in ways that others are not and with this, I’m hoping people will join us to help celebrate Halloween and be taken, learn something about these different ways of death and dying and also a little bit about us and how we interact with death and dying as a culture,” she said.

The event is Thurs., Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m. and to register for the zoom lecture, go to

The lecture is free but a $5 donation is suggested.

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