Pico the Great (pico_the_great) wrote in little_details,
Pico the Great

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becoming a mortician, what one notices, and police handling of deaths and dead bodies

Little Details, I have a set of questions I've put off asking because they are long and complicated and because I'd had to do massive amounts of research for them, and that, at this point, I can't progress without asking/knowing. AND SO I am moved to come to your world and of ye these questions three many, because please help.


My Questions Go Out To: mortuary science students. morticians/funeral workers/directors/etc. medical students. forensic pathologists. cops. people who've been in morgues. people who know about all of the above. people who just know about death procedures. historians?

My World: slightly-pre-industrial mixed-culture (both Eastern and Western histories/techniques/knowledges apply - long story) in a controlled-environment world with small amounts of systemized 'magic'. Slightly different physics, but said physics or 'magic' will not affect human bodily functions or reactions.

My Setup: My MC's a sixteen-year-old* going out for a job in the police. Along the way of the novel, she comes to find that policing is not for her, but morticianing is right up her alley! Whee~

*in-world, it's considered about damn time she's finding an independent career - she's been helping working at her dad's butcher shop til now, but because her older sister's already working there too and looking to carry on the shop, (and because she's a youngest child and feels she has to prove she can make it in the world on her own), she's looking to branch out.

My Questions:

1) that first time she goes into the morgue (morgue? mortuary? what's the proper term in a non-western setting?), what's she going to notice? I've read tell of smells being the most !!! part of the job, so is that what'll hit her? what about things one sees/hears/expects to see and hear? If you've been in a morgue/tuary/etc, what did you note?

2) how does one get interested in a career like this? I've read various accounts of people at loved ones' funerals, or with general interests in death, or just given the job by the government** - so I figure the range of reasons is as long as the day. basically, is it more often an "always been slightly interested" thing? or more often is it a "wow, never noticed that, but now can't stop thinking about it" thing? or can it be a "well, - huh, I never - oh, that's interesting" thing?

2b) would it ring true and not sound stupid if she got all interested in it? and I mean Really Interested. Like how other kids get into sports. ("mom I'm gonna be a football player when I grow up!" "that's nice, dear.")

**(see the book I mention below)

3) how invasive and how accurate were autopsies in, say, 16-1700's? I know that's a huge question, but I'm getting a lot of conflicting information here, and I'm wondering if I ought to just go with modern procedure, since that seems so intuitive (with the obvious omissions of "testing DNA" and "taking photographs" and "anything involving advanced tech").

4) in the culture I'm working with, death (when expected) is generally a private, in-home thing and funerals involve the family/loved ones, but not generally anyone else. The morgue my MC works for deals with unclaimed people, accidental/"accidental" deaths, and deaths that need checking out - ones under investigation or high-profile. In real-world analog, was/is there any procedure for said types of death? What's the general timeline for an investigation of that sort?

5) refrigeration techniques are spotty and unreliable, due, again, to physics and 'magic'. given this, and that this is a city of 10,000+, how long might bodies be kept? and what space requirements might I be looking at?

6) if you were reading about something like this, what would be something you'd be curious to know? My character is curious, and so I want her looking into everything - what would readers want answers to, and what would readers find odd to have overlooked? (And, if you're one of those people who has firsthand knowledge of this kind of job: what would be jarring if I left out?)


My Already Researched Sources: Gawd, you guys, I don't even know if I can list all the hundreds of things I've read. Just know that I've googled every possible combination of "mortician/mortuary", "how to", "history/ical", "ancient", "forensic (/pathology)", "autopsy/dissection", "mortician/funeral director/coroner", and so on, and read all possible links I could get my handses on. And I am still reading.

Also, Wikipedia. I have Wikipedia'd EVERYTHING.

Note that I've never been much of a one for police procedurals (so why are my characters demanding one, sob sob), so I dunno how these things happen in shows and movies. I'm not likely to ever have time to watch a show, so I'm afraid recommendations of that sort will be untenable! I have youtubed around a bit and found a short docu. called For Life, which I'm going to watch after I post this, and then I'm going to continue youtubing around for anything else I might see - but other than that, nuffin.

Finally, I'm reading my way through an excellent book called The Corpse Walker, which interviews various people with societally-unsavory positions in the last hundred years of Chinese history. Fascinating book! The mortician's interview was what drew me (and is what I mention about the government-given job above, in Question #2) , but the whole thing I'm just going to recommend because it's cool beans and fascinating reading.


Okay, LD, that's what I've got for questions! Thanks a lot (belatedly, sorry!) for your previous helps on my other posts, and thanks in advance for your helps with this one, too!
Tags: ~forensics: corpses, ~funerals, ~law enforcement (misc)

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