Today, the third Death Salon conference is taking place in San Francisco. (There may be still a handful of tickets available, so if you’re interested, come on down to Fort Mason.)
I am curious about the women behind the Death Salon project, so I’m going to interview some of them. Earlier interviews with Annetta Black and Elizabeth Harper are already up (see previous post arrow above), with more to come next week.
Megan Rosenbloom is co-founder and director of Death Salon and a member of the Order of the Good Death. She is the Associate Director for Collection Resources at the University of Southern California’s Norris Medical Library.
How did you get interested in death?
Megan Rosenbloom: Well, I was raised Catholic, which I think has at least a little to do with it. Mostly, it was from being a medical librarian and working in the history of medicine and rare books, interacting with all of these texts and seeing the struggles that doctors went through to try to prevent death. People often ask me what death has to do with medicine and it always sort of shocks me. Death is the end of medicine. I think it’s fascinating.
How did the idea for the Death Salon come about?
MR: Mortician Caitlin Doughty inducted me into the Order of the Good Death. We all started chatting online about how fun it would be if we could get together and share ideas. It majorly snowballed from there. Since we were both in LA, it seemed like the obvious choice for the first event. I decided to help plan it because I’m reasonably good at that sort of thing. Next thing you know, here we are.
How far would you like to see the Death Salon go?
MR: That is a really good question and, surprisingly, one I’ve never been asked before. We get requests all the time from people to have Death Salon in their city. Since we’re not like Death Cafe — in that it’s curated solely by us (and that’s how we want to stay) — there is a limit to the amount of events we can do in any given year. However we keep doing more than we anticipated, and it keeps making us want to do more, but Death Salon is never going to be our full-time jobs or anything. We’re hoping to get some content online soon so that people who can’t physically come out to an event can still interact with the ideas.
What’s your favorite morbid item in the Norris Library’s collection?
MR: So hard to pick, but I think it’s probably the Albinus Tables of the skeleton and muscles of the human body 1749. It’s got really beautiful, whimsical engravings. The book goes from my nose to my knees when I have to carry it, which is kind of comical. It’s a real show-stopper.
I hear you’re writing a book. Is it death-related? When will it be available?
MR: Wouldn’t I like to know! I am writing a death-related book, but it’s very much in flux right now — back and forths with agents, trying to make it the best it can be — so it’s still very much a work-in-progress. Hopefully, I will have more concrete information soon.
You can connect with Megan on Twitter & Instagram @libraryatnight or meganrosenbloom.com.
Megan will be speaking at the Death Salon in San Francisco this evening. Here’s the description of her talk:
Megan Rosenbloom – Books of the Dead: Death Imagery from the Library Vaults
While researching her book in libraries across the U.S. and abroad, Megan has collected examples of interesting death images and objects safely kept in the best research libraries’ special collections. Take a tour of some beautiful and macabre illustrations, photos, and objects that the public rarely gets to see.
The whole schedule of this weekend’s lectures is here.