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A Complete History of The Thanatos Archive

The Beginning

This collection of post-mortem photography has had an online presence, in one form or another, dating back to 1999, making The Thanatos Archive the oldest and original post-mortem photography resource of its kind online!

What started out as a small group of friends and collectors sharing their images has grown into one of the premier post-mortem and mourning photography Archives in the world. Our small staff is always on the lookout for new acquisitions to add to our growing collection.

In 2002, the domain was acquired and has been our permanent home ever since. At that time, the website was an open resource of post-mortem image sharing; by signing an electronic agreement of ownership, collectors were able to upload and share their own post-mortem photographs here on our domain.

The very early, free Archive and its accompanying discussion forum were a mix of photographs owned by ourselves and by others, with the majority of the images having been uploaded by our visitors. If we had decided to continue in that manner, we estimate we would have been hosting well over 35,000 images by 2012!

However, two things soon became apparent: despite signing the electronic ownership waiver, there was no possible way to verify that the images being uploaded were actually owned by the person doing the uploading. Out of respect for our fellow collectors, we needed to take more control over what was being allowed on our website. So, in 2005, it was decided that visitor and member uploading of images could no longer be allowed.

The Next Stage

For many years, from 1999 to 2007, access to all photos on our domain was 100% free for all visitors.

In early 2007, it was necessary to make several important changes. The rising costs and time requirements involved in operating and maintaining an extremely popular free online database were putting a strain on resources set aside for our primary goal, acquiring and preserving original post-mortem and mourning photography.

We had several considerations:

1. Allow the site to revert back to its early days of free-for-all image sharing, which would affect our ability to acquire original images, and reopen the possibility of images being shared without the owners' permission.

2. Have a free advertisement-driven site. After reviewing the possibilities here, this proved to be an unrealistic - and unsightly - option.

3. Remove our online presence completely.

4. Continue to acquire original photos and share them with others around the world on

For us, choice was an easy one....

Option 4 had several benefits. Because the majority of our images (outside of the sample gallery) were now only available to a relatively small group of people, this cut back bandwidth usage and costs enormously. A smaller number of people browsing our images (as opposed to thousands of unique hits per day by casual viewers using thousands of megabytes of bandwidth) also allowed us to  improve the size and quality of each image that we uploaded.

In addition, membership fees have allowed the website to "pay for itself", freeing up more of our limited funds to use for the acquisition of original photographs and memorabilia.

Finally, making our database member-supported drastically cut down on the unauthorized proliferation of our scans by other sites and blogs. This helps protect our members by ensuring, to the best of our ability, that the vast majority of images they have paid for access to view are exclusive to our domain.

So, after eight years of free access, The Thanatos Archive was converted to a member-sponsored resource in April 2007. Since that time, with the exception of a couple of special cases, the only images added to this online archive are ones acquired and owned by us. Please note that is not an "image-harvesting" website.

While some very old member uploads remain in this database, their numbers were reduced considerably in 2007, and primarily remain as a reminder of this site's early days, with member comments dating back nearly nine years! All of the older scans remaining in this database were uploaded by their presumed original owners, who signed the electronic waiver when submitting them.

While the total number of images on the site (Nearly 1700+ as of January 2013) is not as high as it would have been if we continued a free-for-all upload format, we believe in image quality over quantity, and we know that those who truly appreciate the art of post-mortem photography feel the same way!


Today, in our  fourteenth year of existence, The Thanatos Archive is the most popular and respected online post-mortem photography resource of its kind and has a thriving, knowledgeable, and loyal community of members and supporters. Our photos have been in books and magazines, popular television, and movies. New, exclusive, high quality photographs and memorabilia are being acquired and added to our site and member forum on a regular basis.

Please visit our membership section for more details or to become an Archive member!

If you see our images anywhere outside of this domain or sites directly affiliated with us, the odds are extremely high that they are being used without our permission by photo harvesters - people who do not spend a penny of their own money on original images and make no scans of their own, but have no problem posting other people's - even if that means using a graphics program to crop out or completely remove our site name!

Our photos are intended for our members and are only rarely allowed to be posted outside of this domain with special permission. If you see one of our images on another website and there is no mention of The Thanatos Archive or a link back to us, you're probably on a pirate / leech site and not a legitimate archive. A pirate site only exists by harvesting scans from other sources without permission to do so and with no investment of their own in original images.

Please take a minute to issue a complaint with the webmaster of the website you found the images on. Thank you for your support!

Updated January 06, 2013

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