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Living with Dying

Death, remembrance and family history in Britain


How do we remember the dead once they are gone? From keeping objects of a spouse who has died, to researching the lives of ancestors we never knew, this project explored how families 'keep alive' memories of those who have died. In particular, this project benefitted from the expertise and experiences of a group of family historians, who worked with us to think through the meanings of family history across generations. Our blog includes further detail about the research, our work with artists, museums and other partners, and also features the research of students at the University of Leeds who continue to explore different aspects of death, dying and the dead over the twentieth century.

This project was run by Laura King, with support from Jessica Hammett. It involved two student interns, Kelsie Root and Imogen Gerrard. Our project partners included the Grief Series, Leeds Museums and Galleries, University of Leeds Special Collections, and Leeds Dying Matters Partnership. The project was supported by funding from the AHRC.

Why does history matter?

We think history has a role to play today. History can help us question the present, understand how change might come about in the future, and challenge assumptions about things always getting better. It can help us understand the attitudes of older generations. And we’re dealing with a sensitive and emotional subject here – not everyone is comfortable talking about death. By using stories and examples from the past, we also hope that history might offer an easier or more neutral way for people to start thinking about their or their relatives' own end of life care and death, and plan for these where possible.