history pragmatic historian

Captivating Public History – Ask A Mortician

My husband finds the most interesting things to watch. I’ve come to depend on him to bring me fresh television, movies, and videos.

Recently, he introduced me to the YouTube channel “Ask A Mortician” by Caitlin Doughty. The channel has over 1.46 million subscribers (I am now one of them) and it is easy to see why. The subject matter (death!) and Caitlin, with her Bettie Page haircut and approachable, humorous, manner, are captivating.

She is, indeed, a mortician and aims to encourage open discussions around death, founding The Order of the Good Death. Her channel features well-produced videos on all sorts of death-related topics. Thus far, she has 246 videos available.

You might think she’d run out of things to say on the topic of death, but with everyone on earth, both past and present, experiencing death (you imaginary Immortals can pipe down), there is no shortage of content for Caitlin to cover.

What impresses me is how much history Caitlin presents and how well-researched it is. With her storytelling ability, her theatrical presentation, and her wide range of voices, she makes the history of what could be a difficult topic very approachable to her viewers, which she calls “deathlings.” For us public and pragmatic historians, THIS is an excellent example of the way history should be presented. (I’m mentally taking notes in order to apply her methods to my own public history work.)

Curious about her background and how she so beautifully covers history as a mortician, I discovered from her website that her first degree was in medieval history, with her second degree being mortuary science. This just goes to prove that you can marry history to pretty  much any topic, with the analytical, research, and writing skills being transferrable to other subject domains.

Ask A Mortician is my new binge-watching pleasure. I am learning a lot about history related to death and it is so very memorable through Caitlin Doughty’s presentation. If you’re looking for something new to watch, I highly recommend it.

Here are links to a few Ask A Mortician videos to get you started:

The Massive LA Disaster You’ve Never Heard Of

The Real Moby Dick Was So Much Worse

Iconic Corpse: The Romanov Family

Be sure to stay for Caitlin’s outtakes at the end!