Study Group for Cemeteries and Memorials

Self-understanding and allocation of responsibilities

The Study Group for Cemeteries and Memorials, which has existed since 1951, aims to inform the public in the German-speaking world about the appropriate handling of dying, death and grief, and does so on the basis of scientific research into the past and present. For this purpose, the Study Group for Cemeteries and Memorials runs an Institute and the Museum of Sepulchral Culture in Kassel.

Founded in 1979, the Central Institute for Sepulchral Culture is the scientific branch, publishing both the Kassel Studies on Sepulchral Culture and the Kassel Manuscripts on Sepulchral Culture. It is also responsible for the publication of the periodical on Sepulchral Culture “Friedhof und Denkmal” (Cemetery and Memorial).

Furthermore, the Central Institute is responsible for the German-language “Grand Encyclopaedia of Burial and Cemetery Culture”, which is intended to encompass five volumes, as well as for other publications in various publishing houses.

The scientific library, the photo archive and the music archive are attached to the Central Institute.

Scientific activities also include participation in scientific projects, conferences and publications of other institutions, or cooperation with them.

Opened in 1992, the Museum of Sepulchral Culture maintains a museum collection including a graphics collection. The development of memorial culture from the Middle Ages down to the present day can be followed on 1,400 square metres of floor space together with exhibits from folklore and popular religion connected with burial and remembrance.

The presentation of the permanent collection is supplemented by three special exhibitions per year dealing with cultural, artistic and practical topics. In addition, general interest lectures, seminars, conferences and cultural events take place. There are also touring exhibitions on various topics.

The museum is committed to the principles of "collecting, preserving and making accessible". Given the existential thematic nature, it is natural that the greatest emphasis lies on the mediation of the topics by means of museum education and informative events. The museum focusses particularly on children and adolescents for its educational activities, which also include the “Museum in a suitcase” with the title “Forget-me-not”, available on loan at seven locations in Germany.

The measures for informing and advising the general and the specialist public extend far beyond Kassel. In the entire German-speaking world, lectures, seminars and consultations are held, usually in conjunction with church- or state-run institutions offering adult education or vocational training courses. Target groups also include municipal and church-run cemeteries as well as professional associations.

Here we have described separately the activities of the Central Institute, the Museum and the Information/Advice department, but they overlap considerably in terms of personnel, content and organization. In this way, this is not a description of a rigid organisation, but rather of the three areas of work.

The Study Group for Cemeteries and Memorials with its institutions is ideologically neutral, but is committed to the cultural heritage of occidental Christian tradition.

Museumscafe, Museum für Sepulkralkultur

© Bärbel Holländer