This museum will have you seeing dead people

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A & A Studios, Chicago
Chicago's A & A Studios is home to the Museum of Mourning Photography and Memorial Practice, which houses a most unusual photo collection. Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

My little red-haired niece approached the casket with a single flower and placed it with the father she looks so much like.

I raised my camera to my eye and made a picture.

Though secure with my reasons for snapping the photo, I understood how taboo this could seem to others. I never made a print to pass around or display. I look at the photo now, 10 years later, and get reacquainted with grief, struck by a visceral appreciation for a chapter that continues to unfold in my family story.

That picture was a fading memory until my recent trip to the Museum of Mourning Photography and Memorial Practice in Chicago, a collection of more than 2,000 postmortem photographs and funerary ephemera.