Lindow Manchester

Lindow Man talk to University of Manchester Archaeology Students
November 18, 2010, 9:07
Filed under: Events, Lindow Man Exhibition | Tags: ,

At the beginning of this term I met Andy Michaelas, a first year archaeology student at the University of Manchester. He was very keen to start up the students’ archaeology society again. He kindly asked me to give a talk to the students on the subject of Lindow Man.

Going over some of the earlier presentations I am reminded just how much material there is to talk about. If you look upon the exhibition as an exercise in public archaeology and you include the earlier exhibitions of 1987 and 1991 it is clear that the three ‘outings’ to Manchester provide a fascinating  sequence of displays that shed light on changing attitudes, approaches and findings to and about Lindow Man.

Anyway the talk is in Mansfield Cooper in the University of Manchester tonight at 6pm Room 2.05 and I’m looking forward to it.


Contesting Human Remains

A new book appeared that discusses the treatment of human remains in museums. Written by Tiffany Jenkins, Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections criticizes museums for hiding their mummies and other human remains even though they are popular with the public for fear of offending pagans and other minority groups.

The Manchester Museum was mentioned several times in articles about the publication of the book appeared at the time in the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph. The Museum removed the head of Worsley Man from display and consulted with the public about the covering of Egyptian mummies a couple of years ago. Jenkins presents these and other examples involving the display of human remains as part of a radical change in policy by museums which, she says, have been unduly influenced by the claims of minority groups such as pagans.

Native Australian photographed outside Manchester Museum 2000s

Repatriation of human remains: Manchester Museum 2002

Requests from indigenous communities in Australia, New Zealand and the Americas for the repatriation of human remains, together with public concern about the retention of organs in hospitals and pathology labs have contributed to the feeling that human remains deserve sensitive treatment.  The Human Tissue Act, 2004 came into force to regulate their retention and storage.

Picking up on the perceived need to treat human remains sensitively many museums have written and implemented policies affecting material in their collections.  Dr Jenkins says this is being driven by professional insecurity rather than public demand. Whilst it’s certainly  true the majority of the public want human remains to continue to be displayed in museums there’s also a feeling that this should be done respectfully.  There is  a danger that museums’ attempts to consult with the public about how this can be achieved are dismissed as ‘political correctness’  or caving-in to pressure groups.

The process of consultation is sometimes mistaken for the end result – the trial covering,  partial covering and display of uncovered mummies a few years ago was presented by local media as a final and unilateral decision on the part of the Museum, which was only overturned after public protest. I worked at Manchester Museum at the time and I understood this ‘covering up’  to have been part of a public consultation in order to see how visitors felt and which of the three different potential ways of displaying such remains visitors preferred.  Such misunderstandings have made the free and open discussion about human remains much more difficult. As a university museum it is part of our role to stimulate debate, not only in the interests of students, but also to engage the public.  If the act of stimulating debate about a current issue is mis-represented as ‘political correctness’ it effectively closes down discussion of that issue. I fear that it will inhibit museums from interacting with the public on this and other important issues.

What is being contested isn’t necessarily what happens to human remains but more inclusive methods of working by museums.  That probably says more about the influence of old-fashioned ways of thinking about museum practice than it says about human remains per se.

Lindow Man Exhibition on University Museum’s Website
August 31, 2010, 9:07
Filed under: Publication | Tags: , ,

An overview of the Manchester Museum’s Lindow Man: a Bog Body Mystery exhibition can be seen on the University Museums Group’s newly launched website: –

The case study  gives a concise summary of the exhibition, its aims and objectives, refers to the criticism that greeted its opening  and what we achieved.

The fact that we are still receiving enquiries about different aspects of the project is very gratifying. This morning I received an email from a PhD student at the Univeristy of Wales regarding Pagan involvement with archaeology and heritage, and the contestation of human remains. As the public consultation involved representatives from HAD (Honouring the Ancient Dead) I suspect we may be able to help the student concerned.

Lindow Man Exhibition and Public Consultation
July 22, 2010, 9:07
Filed under: Publication | Tags: , ,

I bumped into Sam Alberti on the stairs yesterday who pointed out that ‘we’ (him and me that is) were ‘all over the latest issue of Museum Practice like a rash’. It deals with consultation, co-authorship and dealing with criticism.  There’s quite a lot of discussion about the Manchester Museum’s consultation with the public over the Lindow Man display in Rebecca Atkinson’s articles (July issue). Look at Creating Engaging Displays. Then the Case Study on Dealing with Criticism. Or Challenging Preconceived Ideas.

Lindow Man Wins British Archaeological Award
July 20, 2010, 9:07
Filed under: Awards | Tags: , , ,

Stephen Walsh,  Head of Fundraising and Development at the Manchester Museum, texted me yesterday afternoon to say that the Lindow Man exhibition had won in the ‘Best Innovation’ category at the British Archaeological Awards ceremony held at the British Museum.  This was in respect of the work on engaging the public about  the issue of human remains in archaeology and museums.

Stephen went down to London and received the award on behalf of the team that worked on the project. The British Archaeological Awards take place every two years so to some extent they are a retrospective on work that has already taken place.

Best Innovation

The British Archaeological Award for best innovation won by the Manchester Museum

Over a year after the exhbition closed the project continues to attract interest and to win awards.  It is only a week or so since I spoke about the unsuccessful Lindow Man repatriation campaign at the Restitution and Museums conference here at the University of Manchester. Students at this and other universities continue to interview us about the project for their dissertations. And we won the Design Week 2009 Best Temporary Exhibition award.  As one of my colleagues said this morning, from this perspective Lindow Man is the gift that just keeps on giving.

Campaign Song Again

Here’s another blast from the past from the Manchester Museum Lindow Man files.  But one that has a modern resonance because I spoke about the unsuccessful campaign at last week’s Museums and Restitution conference at the Manchester Museum.

I got a laugh when I said one of the now grown-up children who contributed to the Lindow Man exhibition  really had been there, did do that and still had the t-shirt to prove it!

These children joined the campaign to repatriate Lindow Man’s body to the North West by recording a song, Lindow Man we want you back again (think Grandad we love you but with archaeological lyrics).

Susan Chadwick kindly lent us a photo, her t-shirt and one of her favourite toys from the time. I’ve never seen a tape or record of the song with the packaging so it would be great to see it if anyone out there still has a copy.

It’s a reminder if one were needed, as championed so ably at the Castleford Conference in 2005, that heritage assets should include the intangible elements of  local views of place: things like stones, beliefs, ideas, traditions and oral history. To which we can attach songs and recordings and ephemera associated with campaigns and the like.

Lindow Man Exhibition Publication

I was out with a colleague from the Manchester Museum’s education team, Neil Dymond-Green,  this morning to talk to pupils at St James’ Primary School about our new Ancient Worlds displays.

When I walked in my office there was a thick, new book on my desk still inside its wrapper and a pithy message on the outside from Jeff Horsley saying ‘The exhibition looks fantastic’.

I opened New Exhibition Design/Neue Ausstellungs Gestaltung 02 suspecting it was something to do with the Lindow Man exhibition. It’s always nice to open a brand new book, with that peculiar fresh smell of printing but even more of a thrill to find some rather nice images of Lindow Man displays taken by former colleague Bryony Bond.

There’s only a couple of short paragraphs by way of text. The book focuses on exhibition design so it’s what it looked like that’s important.

There are three pages of tasteful shots showing the innovative shelving, the biographies of the contributors and visitors interacting with the various sections. It’s all very atmospheric and brings back happy memories of the Lindow Man exhibition.

From now on I won’t have to scrabble about looking for images on the shared drive. I can simply refer them to this beautiful and thought-provoking publication.  Thanks to Jeff for dropping this off.

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