February 10, 2009

UK museum wants to retain Aboriginal human remains

Posted at 7:29 pm in Similar cases

More coverage on the decision by Brighton’s Booth Museum of Natural History against returning an Aboriginal artefact that involves human remains. It is important to recall, that whilst the Human Tissue Act allows Museums to return artefacts involving human remains where they would otherwise not be allowed to, there is nothing in the act that says they have to return such pieces. On the other hand, in most cases, artefacts have eventually been returned, so any institution that is not doing so is making a concious decision to go against what has become the currently accepted practise.

Sydney Morning Herald

UK museum wants to keep Aboriginal relic
February 11, 2009 – 2:29PM

A rare Aboriginal relic is expected to stay in an English museum despite fears it could spark an Australian backlash.

Brighton and Hove City Council plans to keep a water carrier made from a human skull that has been stored in a museum in Brighton, a coastal city south of London, since 1925.

A report to the council said: “The water carrier is of great importance and rarity; only one example of such a vessel is known of in an Australian museum collection and just a handful of examples exist in European collections.”

Australia’s Office of Indigenous Policy Co-ordination has previously asked for the artefact from the Ngarrindjeri community in South Australia to be returned to its ancestral homeland.

But Brighton council bosses say it will stay in the city because it is “not intended for burial”, and returning it could set a precedent affecting other museums.

“We are aware of only two cases where a UK museum has returned modified human remains which were not intended for burial,” the report said.

“If the Royal Pavilion and Museums returned this piece it would be in danger of setting a precedent impacting on other museums.”

“Major collections such as the British Museum and University of Oxford Museums will only consider the return of modified human remains where it can be established that they were intended for burial.”

The report added there was no evidence to suggest Australian authorities intended to bury the water carrier.

The water carrier was made from modified human remains, with the addition of gum, shell and a carrying handle, the report said.

A representative of Australia’s Office of Indigenous Policy Co-ordination visited Brighton’s Booth Museum in April 2005 as part of an assessment of the scale and whereabouts of indigenous Australian remains in museums.

As well as the water carrier, they asked for two skulls and two thigh bones to be returned to their ancestral homeland.

The bones have since been returned.

But now the council is concerned its stance on the water carrier could spark bad publicity and a campaign from the Ngarrindjeri community.

In a bid to head off criticism, the council plans to make a statement on its website detailing the decision-making process.

And officers from the museum will make contact with representatives of the Ngarrindjeri community to start talks about the future curation of the object.

The piece was donated in 1925 by FW Lucas, a Brighton local who collected items from around the world up until his death in 1932.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Possibly related articles

Tags: , , , , , ,

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URL

Leave a Comment

We want to hear your views. Be as critical or controversial as you like, but please don't get personal or offensive. Remember this is for feedback and constructive discussion!
Comments may be edited or removed if they do not meet these guidelines. Repeat offenders will be blocked from posting further comments. Any comment deemed libellous by Elginism's editors will be removed.
The commenting system uses some automatic spam detection and occasionally comments do not appear instantly - please do not repost comments if they do not show up straight away