University of Sussex Media Release.
. Art of death goes on computer

2 June 2000
For immediate release

Death used to be a lavish affair for the great and the good, surrounded by pomp and ceremony. But the grandest thing of all would be a magnificent monument in memory of your life.

Today thousands of carved stone tombs adorned with effigies and heraldic symbols can be found in places of worship all over Britain. Yet, they have never been studied as a cultural art form and their existence has never been properly catalogued to enable others to appreciate their true significance ... until now.

Using the latest in computer technology and 136,000 funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB), University of Sussex art historian Dr Nigel Llewellyn is about to conduct a pilot study to design a data base on the funeral monuments of East and West Sussex.

If it's successful, Dr Llewellyn, who curated the hugely popular Art of Death exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1992, hopes to turn his project into a national database. He said: "Our approach to death these days is to keep our response low key. But our ancestors confronted it very readily and made preparations before they died. These monuments often tell extraordinary stories and are of interest not just to art historians, but to genealogists, social historians and those interested in local history."

More than 300 local monuments dated between 1530 and 1900 are to be documented on a data base which will contain digitised visual images and text. The idea is that users will be able to identify and compare different monuments in an easy and accessible way.

The study, which will be carried out by Dr Llewellyn with his university colleagues at the Sussex Centre for Research in the History of Art, the School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences and the Environmental Science Laboratory, is expected to take two years.

Two other research bids by art historians on the Falmer campus have also been successful. Dr Evelyn Welch has been awarded 252,000 by the AHRB and 43,000 by the Getty Grant Programme for a three-year project that will bring together art, economic and cultural historians to explore issues of consumption in Renaissance Italy. "Our group is interested in whether art objects were bought and sold in ways that made them different from everyday objects," she said.

A project led by Professors Craig Clunas and Partha Mitter has been awarded 31,000 of AHRB funding to explore the connections among a diverse group of scholars around the world who work with texts on visual arts and aesthetics in India and China. "This research is aimed at a clearer understanding of the arts in a global context and of the network of cultures in the contemporary world," explained Professor Clunas.

Notes for editors

Dr Llewellyn is knowledgeable about many of the funeral monuments in Sussex and can talk about their history in an interesting and informative way.

For further information, please contact Jacqui Bealing, Press Officer or Alison Field, Communications Officer, University of Sussex, tel. 01273 678888, fax 01273 877456, email or

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