Iowa Funeral Museum and Education Center draws visitors to Marshalltown

Caskets on display at the Iowa Funeral Museum and Educational Center in Marshalltown (Jordee Kalk/KCRG)
Caskets on display at the Iowa Funeral Museum and Educational Center in Marshalltown (Jordee Kalk/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Jul. 15, 2019 at 11:36 AM CDT
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There's only one museum like it in the state of Iowa and it's in Our Town Marshalltown.

The Iowa Funeral Museum and Education Center opened about two years ago.

Marty Mitchell has spent his life studying death. Specifically, how the mourning process has changed over time. Photos used to be sent to family members who couldn't attend a funeral.

"There were a lot of people that couldn't afford travel arrangements for funeral services," Mitchell said.

Caskets and coffins that line the museum walls date back to the 1800s.

And, there's a station that goes over embalming techniques. It became common during the Civil War when thousands of soldiers were embalmed on the battlefields so their bodies could return home.

"Lincoln was very aware," Mitchell said. "When his son passed away at age three he was embalmed."

There are even more artifacts from Lincoln's funeral at this museum.

Mitchell, a history buff, has collected items for decades. He wants people to come to see and learn. But most importantly, ask questions.

"I want people to have a good way to say goodbye," Mitchell said.

That mindset has driven his career. He owns Mitchell Family Funeral Home, located right next to the museum. He said creativity is key when it comes to planning a funeral.

"We had a guy who was actively dying, he was in hospice care," Mitchell said. "And he said, 'I don't want my friends to remember me in a box.' We had a visitation of him in a recliner."

Mitchell hopes the items and scheduled tours will inspire families to think and to prepare for a celebration of life.

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