It was five years ago this summer that Kim Anderson, Meg Holle, and I (John Troyer) started the Death Reference Desk.
And to celebrate this major achievement (in internet years) we present the fancy new Death Reference Desk website!
In case anyone doubts our origins, here is the almost-very-first post by Meg on June 07, 2009 about funeral business stories on the This American Life radio programme:
The very very first post also occurred on June 07, 2009 but the links in the post are all broken and dead. Remember– five years(!) is a long time for the interwebs.
None of us had any idea that we would make it to year five. Indeed, this entire adventure started as a series of e-mail messages that Kim and I exchanged about wanting to start some kind of new website to discuss death, dying, and the dead body but in an interesting and compelling way that didn’t automatically revert to wacky funerals and lame puns.
Very quickly, however, Kim and I realised that we didn’t know anything about creating anything online so I e-mailed Meg who did and who also studied death. She said sure.
And that, dear Death Reference Desk friends, is how we made it to five years.
Sure sure we’ve had our collective ups and downs. Each of us has moved, loved, lost, laboured, felt guilty and then not guilty about not posting enough on the website. It’s just so easy (SO EASY) to use Facebook and Twitter….
Oddly enough, the three of use have never actually been together in the same room at the same time during the last five years. Not once. But the internet being the internet and death being death, it didn’t really matter.
Most disastrously for Death Ref, I unwittingly developed some naughty web posting habits that really irked Google and suddenly in 2012 ye olde Death Reference Desk stopped showing up in search results.
Thankfully Meg has swooped in and is fixing those issues while we continue to revamp and play with our fresh and minty new website.
We heart you Google!
In order to celebrate both the new website design and our first five years I am going to try something that I have always wanted to do with the Death Reference Desk.
For the next 31 Days, I will post at least one news story, thought, image, or idea each day on the website to demonstrate a key part of my own Centre for Death and Society research: we Humans are surrounded by death every single day. Not a day goes by where we don’t see/hear/smell something about death.
I will also use these 31 Days to flag up some of my favourite previous Death Reference Desk posts and try some other content ideas that I’ve never gotten to.
It’s important, I think, to challenge the conventional wisdom that describes death as a taboo and socially repressed topic. If Death Ref has demonstrated anything, it’s that both of these ideas are incorrect.
Museum of Morbid Anatomy
The next 31 Days will also be used for my own shameless self-promotion as I prepare to be the Morbid Anatomy Museum’s Scholar in Residence during the month of August. I will be giving a series of lectures, curating film screenings, and running field trips during the Residency.
The Morbid Anatomy Museum, as many of you may know, is in Brooklyn, New York and I already know how jealous everyone will be that I get to spend AUGUST in NEW YORK. I am already predicting daily experiences with aromatic summertime organic flesh decomposition.
A final big thanks to all of the Death Reference Desk’s readers. We’ve gotten many amazing (and, um, sometimes slightly creepy) e-mail messages over the years and we love it. All of it. All of you.
Especially from all of those kids writing High School or College essays on death who found Death Ref while pulling an all nighter and realised that Meg, Kim, and I saved them from complete and total failure.
We got your backs kids.
Onwards to the next five years.
Yours in Death.
— John, Kim, and Meg