MINNEAPOLIS, MN – A modest, yet energetic crowd attended last Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Exit Breath Museum, situated on the east side of the city. It is the first of its kind in the country, capping off a sometimes fraught multi-year planning and zoning process that many in the area have been following with interest.
The museum, a commission by the local chapter of the Adamic Society in partnership with the Library of The Institute of Magical Historicity, will house an eccentric collection of the Exit Breaths, or final exhalations, of notable figures in U.S. history.
Exit Breath capture is not a common practice these days, but did enjoy a certain popularity in the last half of the 19th century. It is thought to be one of the more obscure enthusiasms of Spiritualist devotees in that period.
The details are simple: an experienced member of the Spiritualist circle would preside over the final moments of an ailing person, holding above their face a blessed and prepared receptacle – initially glass canning jars – in order to secure the final breaths of the deceased.
The import of this ritual wasn’t to trap the soul, which Spiritualists of this flavor believe to leave the body on its final breath, but to capture a small amount of its
ectoplasmic residue. The preserved traces of the deceased would then be installed in the home of a survivor. Over the years various rituals were developed to use this lingering connection to the departed for seances and medium gatherings.
Aside from their uses as religious artifacts, the receptacles themselves have taken on an interest by crafts and design historians. The once humble, utilitarian glass container evolved into an artisanal specialty among glass blowers, some of the established masters of the form being historically based right in this community. “I come from a long line of Pneuma Glass men”, says Arlo Gustafsen, using the traditional name of the cup. “There’s not much call for them these days, but there are still collectors and hobbyists that care about this stuff enough to keep me in it. I do Uber on the side, you know?”
The facility is expected to be open to the public July 2021.