My name is Masooma Kazmi and I am studying Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bradford. I am currently on a placement with Bradford Museums and Galleries.
I have been working within a large framework of departments across different sites and I have also been involved with a 'Museum and Universities Partnership Initiative' focusing on 'Death, Dying and Bereavement'. I was intrigued to explore what the museums of Bradford had to offer on this subject, a matter that many people find hard to talk about.
I have chosen funeral biscuit wrappers as my object of the month, these are held in the museum stores.
Food is a fundamental part of the human existence; it is used for nourishment and throughout life for celebration and to mark important occasions. An example of this is the funeral biscuit, stemming from a tradition prevalent during the Victorian era and highly practiced in Yorkshire. These biscuits were given to funeral-goers at the service, wrapped in paper and sealed with black wax. The text on the wrappers contains the deceased person's name and a choice of either a poem or Bibilical verses. In additon, there is the hallmark of the baking company.
The biscuits themselves would be anything from a classical ladyfinger to shortbread or treacle cookies. They would often be made at short notice and the bakers would work diligently throughout the night to produce the required amount. Such bakeries had unmistakably established themselves a serviceable niche.
Who would suppose that the humble biscuit would have been utilized to commemorate a loved one? Then again, we can view it to make complete sense, a simple comfort food given to enjoy and share; a gift that will help mark the emotion and meaning of such a day.