I’m a ‘chick’ and I work with the dead: a concise way to describe my range of interests and professional skills. I’m Carla Valentine, qualified Anatomical Pathology Technologist (Mortuary Technician or ‘Mortician’) holding both the Certificate and Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology, and currently researching our relationships with human remains. To find out how to become an APT see the AAPT Website.
Through the course of my eight year career I carried out autopsies on Coronial, hospital and forensic cases, both paediatric and adult. This work also included CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) and other high risk cases like SARS, Swine Flu and CJD. In my spare time I studied Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology which led me to excavate plague graves in Venice and WWI graves in Belgium, as well as medieval burials in Chester.
I am now the Technical Curator of a Victorian Pathology Musum, restoring the 5000 anatomical specimens to their former glory and teasing stories from the dead in a different way. I organise events to showcase the collection, teach students at the Academy of Forensic Medical Sciences, and conserve anatomical specimens every day. I talk about the specimens on YouTube and to anyone who’ll listen, and I am in the enviable position of having one foot firmly planted in the future of Pathology, and one firmly in the past.
I am interested in the cultural and scientific links between sex and death inspired, in part, by my earlier Psychology background and interest in the writings of Professor Lisa Downing and Dr Anil Aggrawal. My current MA in ‘Museum Cultures’ at Birkbeck will be complete with my dissertation “The Taboo View: Medical Museums, Anatomical Collections and the Sexualised Gaze.” You can see the more irreverent part of this research via my Twitter and Instagram @chickandthedead.
I also run a dating and networking site for death professionals called Dead Meet and my book ‘Past Mortems’ was published by Sphere (an imprint of Little Brown) in April 2017. It is currently #1 Bestseller in Forensic Medicine on Amazon.
This blog contains some sex and death musings, and interesting observations on the culture of mortality, particularly as it may relate to death and femininity, sex and our interactions/intimacy with human remains.
- Professionally I’m passionate about open, objective discussion, not hindered by culturally specific ideas of dignity, around the display and use of medical collections and access to our dead.
- Academically I explore the spectrum of interactions which humans share with their dead, from the extreme end of direct cremation (no relationship) to necrophilia (full intimacy.)
- I’m interested in research which identifies the positive affects of dealing with our own dead and death (worldwide), and also how the sanitised death we are now experiencing has a detrimental effect on society.
- In short, if we improve our relationships with human remains, could that improve our society?