Death + the Web

Happy First Birthday, DeathRef!

Believe it or not, the Death Reference Desk officially launched a year ago last July (with some content seeded in June to get us started). Gadzooks!

It all started when death and dying practices professor John approached librarian Meg about setting up a site where he could post death-related news links that he would otherwise put on Facebook or email to friends (and which friends, including librarian Kim, would constantly email to him). After much brainstorming — including the librarians pulling in the reference service idea — Meg created the site in a caffeine-induced fever dream. The rest is less history than designing the future.

Here are our most popular posts to date!

1,258 — Premature Burial Device Patents
1,021 — Dead Bodies Having Sex: the Backstory
989 — Deathly Art at DIA
757 — Blue Screen of Death… Memorial Tattoo?
661 — The Impossibility of Identifying the Dead in Haiti

And the top five search strings:

373 — memorial tattoos
268 — death reference desk
204 — corpse flower
123 — death masks of famous people
95 — memorial tattoo

Two deal with memorial tattoos, and there are many other tattoo-themed search terms that send people to our site: “memorial tattoo ideas,” “memorial tattoo designs,” “cremation tattoo” and many more. This is a pet interest of John’s, in fact, he’ll be speaking about memorial tattoos at a public lecture July 20th in New York City. He’ll post more about this soon, but here are the vitals in the meantime.

Hey! We now have a Facebook Page! Ironically, or perhaps just “finally,” we have come back around to posting content on Facebook, now with our own group page. Like us, love us and confuse all your stalkers trolling your Likes and Interests!

And don’t forget our DeathRef Twitter account, affectionately called the Death Feed. While we tweet links to our own posts here, we also throw out additional content that we don’t have the time or inclination to write full posts about. In addition, we have internal editorial guidelines / a collection and redistribution policy so to speak, known colloquially as “taste,” that prevents us from wallowing in schlocky, scandalous content on the DRD website (Pets Eat Dead Owner! 50 Wacky Coffins! and so forth). But some of that stuff still makes the Twitter Death Feed just for the heck of it, and it’s a good way to say yep, we’re still here, even when posts are long in coming.

Which brings us to… sometimes posts are long in coming. As our About page says, we suffer full-time jobs and part-time lives, and it’s also sum-sum-summah time! Rather than All DeathRef, All the Time, we’ve been dragging our pasty carcasses out into the sunshine. You should try it. It’s awesome.

Also of note: despite the low count in the DeathRef Questions category, Kim and Meg actually do field reference questions, usually one or two per month, but most of them are private issues that overlap legal and medical concerns that we don’t post for reasons of confidentiality. (We’re also not doctors or lawyers and can’t give related advice, but we do try to track down appropriate, useful services local to the patron.)

It’s been a great year, folks — we look forward to many more!

4 replies on “Happy First Birthday, DeathRef!”

Your deep coverage of death issues is much appreciated. You have a great team of bloggers for your site.

I have learned much here. Many call me a death and funeral expert? You guys are not just great death librarians, researchers, bloggers and death experts. Excellent teachers as well.

Your Funeral Guy

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