August 17, 2009
The reunification of human remains held in museums with Aboriginal groups is a hot topic at the moment in Australia. The Human Tissue Act made the return of many such artefacts possible, but there are still many who claim that such returns are removing a key source of scientific & anthropological study – to the detriment of the institutions that currently held the artefacts.
Listen to the original programme here.
Regarding human remains
12 August 2009
The collection and display of human remains and human body parts were once legitimate activities for the great universal museums. Rear Vision tracks the changes in attitudes towards such displays from outside the museum world as well as from within.
Man: We’re gathered here today to welcome our old people back home.
Reporter: The Naranjeri remains were stolen from 27 gravesites between 1898 and 1906 by the controversial Adelaide coroner, Dr William Ramsay Smith. He sold livers, hearts and skeletons on the open market, all in the name of research.
Keri Phillips: During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, collectors, traders and amateur and professional scientists from the developed world amassed enormous collections from all over the globe. These collections often contained human remains, everything from tattooed human skin and skulls to the bones of lepers and other diseased body parts. Early on, but especially during the 20th century, many of these collections were bequeathed to museums but as time wore on and museums began to change from research institutions to places of public display, questions began to be raised both within and outside the museum community about the ethics and legality of the collection, retention and display of humans and human body parts. In recent decades, some museums have begun to repatriate their collection of human remains.
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