Hearthside’s Gone But Not Forgotten exhibit opens Sunday

Hearthside’s Gone But Not Forgotten exhibit opens Sunday

Ron Deighan, left, of Pawtucket, and Jean Southard, of Cumberland, wait for guests by the coffin of Simon Thornton, one of the previous owners of The Hearthside House, at last year’s “Gone But Not Forgotten,” an exhibition of Victorian Funeral and Mourning Customs. This year’s exhibit opens Oct. 14. (Breeze photo by Bill Murphy)

LINCOLN – The topics of death and mourning in the 19th century are featured during Hearthside House Museum’s annual exhibit, Gone But Not Forgotten, when the stone mansion gets draped in black and the whole house replicates the experience a family went through when a loved one passed away.

There were five owners of Hearthside who died at the house over the past 200 years. This event showcases the farewell to former Hearthside homeowner, Simon E. Thornton, who died on May 2, 1873.

The exhibit opens Sunday, Oct. 14, and continues on Saturday, Oct. 20 and Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 27-28. Saturday tours begin every half hour between 5 and 7 p.m. Sunday tours begin every half hour between 1 and 3 p.m., except for Oct. 28, when the last guided tour takes place at 2 p.m. due to the funeral service scheduled for 3:15 p.m.

Admission is $15; $10 ages 10-17. Not advisable for young children.

Victorian American mourning and funerary traditions and practices are explored in this re-creation of Mr. Thornton’s wake. As somber funeral music plays in the background, volunteer docents dressed in mourning attire are situated throughout the house to explain the rituals a family would undertake upon a loved one’s passing. The mirrors are covered in black, and the sweet smell of flowers pervades the waking room.

The undertaker has come to set up in the master bedroom to prepare the body for its final resting place. A photographer has been hired to capture one last image of the deceased. Special stationery and memorials have been created to notify friends and relatives and to memorialize the deceased. Funeral biscuits are wrapped and sealed with black wax, ready to give to those who come to pay their respects.

On display during this special exhibit are Victorian coffins, mourning fashions and accessories, post-mortem photographs, mourning jewelry and woven hair, antique embalming tools and the actual table that Mr. Thornton’s body was prepared on, the undertaker’s journal where his death was recorded, as well as other funerary memorials and artifacts.

During the Victorian era, superstitions were prevalent with just about every aspect of life, as well as death. Visitors learn about the various superstitions surrounding death, mourning practices and funerals as they make their journey through the house. Even the topic of vampires is covered.

Space is limited for each tour, which lasts 90 minutes. Reservations are advised by calling 401-726-0597 or email info@hearthsidehouse.org.

Hearthside is located at 677 Great Road, Lincoln. For more information, visit www.hearthsidehouse.org or call the museum at 401-726-0597.