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How were corpses preserved for wakes in the 1870s? Connecticut Historical Society, UConn explain

The corpse preserver was used at wakes during the late 1870s. UConn's Tech Park and The Connecticut Historical Society are breathing new life into the device.

HARTFORD, Conn. — A unique funerary object from the 19th century will be on display in Hartford, with a chance for people to get up close and personal with it.

A partnership between the University of Connecticut's Tech Park and The Connecticut Historical Society is breathing new life into a 19th-century corpse preserver.

The corpse preserver was used at wakes during the late 1870s.

“When a lot of Catholic immigrants started coming to Connecticut, and they brought with them the practice of having wakes, they needed something to be able to preserve and display the body,” said Andrea Rapacz, the Connecticut Historical Society’s director of collections.

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Marissa Baum, Director of Collections at Connecticut Historical Society, explained the corpse preserver is designed with a viewing window, steel lining to keep the body cool, horse hair to keep it insulated and even a cranking tool to raise or lower the person’s head or feet.

Newer models of the preserver include drains at the bottom to get rid of the water melted from the ice inside the preserver.

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Mike DiDonato, business development manager at UConn’s Tech Park, explained how their innovation partnership program offers 3D printing, cybersecurity and more to Connecticut business owners.

“In this case, we used laser profilometry and photogrammetry in order to create a 3D digital model of the corpse preserver,” DiDonato said. “We took it one step further and then used our 3D printers to make tiny, little keepsake corpse preservers to giveaway to 50 lucky guests for tonight.”

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Event guests can check out the corpse preserver as well as the 3D interactive model.

The “X-Ray Vision: a look inside the past” event is Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at the Connecticut Historical Society.

Click here for more information and to register for this free event.

Symphonie Privett is an anchor and host of The Buzz at FOX61 News. She can be reached at sprivett@fox61.com. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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