Lindow Manchester

Return of Human Remains
March 13, 2008, 9:07
Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition

Another reason why human remains may be seen as more sensitive now than they were years ago is because of repatriation. We tend to think of things like the Elgin Marbles when we talk about repatriation but the Manchester  Museum has repatriated  human remains to indigenous Australian communities because it recognised their claim on the remains of their ancestors. Generally speaking, the material was often collected without permission or without the native people’s informed consent. It may not have been looked at or used in research by the museum since its acquisition over a hundred years ago.  

Developments like this are changing the way we treat human remains in museums. Not everyone would agree of course. Museums curate material for exhibition, education and research purposes, now and for posterity. If we dispose of material now, will we limit future research? However, many museums contain human remains which have limited research potential because they have little associated information about the locality or the context of the finds. They may never have been looked at since they came to the museum 50 or 100 or more years ago. In these circumstances isn’t it right to consider disposal?

Of course this works in all sorts of ways and British groups like Honouring the Ancient Dead have campaigned for a more respectful approach in the treatment of native British human remains and the reburial of material that does not have research interest.


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