191 Years After His Death, the Poet William Blake Is Getting a New Tombstone

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

William Blake’s final words before his death in 1827 are said to have been, “I am going to that country which I have all my life wished to see.” But for the better part of two centuries, Blake’s unmarked grave meant that his final resting place remained largely unseen and unvisited—until now.

During a special ceremony on August 12, a memorial stone will finally be placed on Blake’s grave in Bunhill Fields, London’s cemetery for nonconformists and religious dissenters, the Islington Tribune reports. Although his grave was located in 2006 using directional coordinates that had been logged by cemetery staff, it took some time for fans to reach a consensus on the new gravestone's inscription, which is an extract from his epic poem "Jerusalem."

The debate grew so heated that some punctuation purists quibbled over the apostrophes. One camp argued that the poet’s “eccentric” punctuation—or lack thereof—should be honored, while others said the proper apostrophes should be added in. The quote in question is: “I give you the end of a golden string / Only wind it into a ball / It will lead you in at Heavens gate / Built in Jerusalems wall.” (Ultimately, it was decided to leave the stanza untouched, apostrophes be damned.)

Although a memorial stone was erected in 1927 in honor of Blake’s memory, the language was rather vague, according to the book Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses, by Mental Floss editor Bess Lovejoy. The inscription read, “Nearby lie the remains of the poet-painter William Blake … and of his wife Catherine Sophia.” The stone did in fact mark Blake's location, and the "nearby" referred to his wife.

An older memorial marking the general area where William Blake is buried
Matthew Lloyd, Getty Images

However, in 1960, the stone was moved about 20 yards during cemetery renovations, and Blake’s grave once again went unmarked. It wasn’t until 2006 that two fans of Blake’s work, Luis and Carol Garrido, tracked down the exact location of Blake’s burial site—a common grave in which Blake lies buried beneath seven other bodies.

To fans of Blake, the memorial is a long overdue tribute to one of England's foremost poets. The gravestone unveiling ceremony on August 12 will feature musical performances, and 191 candles will be lit around Blake’s grave in commemoration of his death anniversary.

[h/t Islington Tribune]

22 Weird Jobs From 100 Years Ago

Metal Floss via YouTube
Metal Floss via YouTube

Before everyone started working in tech, people actually had their choice of eclectic and strange vocations that put food on their old-timey tables. Discover what lamplighters, lectores, and knocker-uppers did back in the day as Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy runs down 22 Weird Old Jobs from 100 Years Ago.

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The Definition of Museum Could Be Changing

The Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
The Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
roman_slavik/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve always casually defined museum as “a place to see art or historical objects,” you’re not necessarily wrong. But the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has a more specific, official guideline that defines a museum as “a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study, and enjoyment.”

ICOM’s 40,000 members have been adhering to this definition for almost 50 years to represent more than 20,000 museums around the world. Now, The Art Newspaper reports, some members want to change it.

On July 22, the organization’s executive board convened in Paris and composed a new definition that Danish curator Jette Sandahl believes better suits the demands of “cultural democracy.” By this updated description, a museum must “acknowledg[e] and addres[s] the conflicts and challenges of the present,” “work in active partnership with and for diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit, and enhance understandings of the world,” and “contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality, and planetary wellbeing.”

The proposal immediately elicited harsh reactions from a number of other members of the museum community, who felt the text was too ideological and vague. François Mairesse, a professor at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle and the chair of the International Committee of Museology, even resigned from the revisory commission—led by Sandahl—earlier this summer when he realized the new definition wasn’t, by his standards, really a definition. “This is not a definition but a statement of fashionable values, much too complicated and partly aberrant,” he told The Art Newspaper. “It would be disastrous to impose only one type of museum.”

The current plan is for ICOM members to vote on the definition at the general assembly on September 7 in Kyoto, Japan, but 24 national branches and five museums’ international committees have petitioned to postpone the vote—they’d like some time to create their own definition for museum and present it as a counter-proposal.

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

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