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Reading Alexandra Ion: on ruins, nostalgia, and lonely specimens

Last week the project invited Alexandra Ion, formerly at the Institut de Antropologie Francisc I. Rainer, Academia Romana in Bucharest, to discuss her article “Anatomy Collections as “modern ruins”: The nostalgia of lonely specimens, published in 2021 in Science in Context. This beautifully written paper explores a range of entangled issues relating to the collection…

aDNA Research and Research Integrity. Some thoughts from a webinar.

On November 17, 2022, Norway’s National Committee for Research Ethics on Human Remains hosted a webinar about ethical challenges in ancient DNA (aDNA) research of archaeological human remains. Museum collections and data management were the main themes, but other hot topics emerged, such as long-standing communication problems between geneticists, archaeologists, and museum curators, and the…

Addressing dark heritage in exhibitions. The University Museum in Groningen.

After our visit in Amsterdam I continued to Groningen which aslo has an anatomical collection on display in its University Museum. Here, the anatomical collection is part of the exhibition on the history of the university and its scholars, and it is thus clearly inscribed in the broader history of research and scholarship. A separate…

Museum Vrolik and Body Worlds Amsterdam: reflecting on two exhibitions of human remains

In early November, we (Sarah Tarlow and Liv Nilsson Stutz) visited the Netherlands with the objective of viewing two different exhibitions of human remains: Museum Vrolik and Body Worlds, The Happiness Project, Amsterdam. While we realised it would be two distinct experiences, we were not quite prepared for just how radically different these two exhibitions…

The Anatomical Collection at Karolinska. Report from a seminar.

On March 29, 2022, Karolinska institutet organised a seminar on their anatomical collection. The purpose of the seminar was to present the history of the collection, and to discuss possible ways forward as the institution grapples with a problematic history. This work is part of a broader engagement on behalf of Karolinska with regards to…

Some thoughts about the connections between Ethics and Theory. Review of Geller’s Theorizing Bioarchaeology.

I recently published a book review of Pamela L. Geller’s noteworthy book Theorizing Bioarchaeology for the American Journal of Biological Anthropology. The book takes a broad approach to how social and critical theory can inform and improve our study of human remains. The book outlines how a bio-cultural perspective on humanity informed by considerations of…

Exploring Sustainable Collection Practices. Report from a workshop.

On May 2-4, 2022, I participated in a workshop “Museums, sustainability, collections” at the Africa Museum / the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. The workshop was organised within the European cooperation project “TAKING CARE – Ethnographic and World Cultures Museums as Spaces of Care” and included curators, conservators and other museum professionals…

Human Remains in Contract Archaeology – report from a workshop

The Ethical Entanglements project mainly focuses on collections of human remains in museums, but a significant process by which they get there today is contract archaeology. In contrast to the scientific practices that resulted in many of the older collections in museums, including ethnographic, anatomical and archaeological collections, these new additions to archaeological collections are…

Meeting at the Ethnographic Museum in Stockholm

Last week (January 26-27) the researchers with Ethical Entanglements met with the advisory board for the project, including Fredrik Svanberg (Nordiska museet, Stockholm), Linda Andersson Burnett (Uppsala University), Olof Ljungström (Karolinska Instititutet), Malin Masterton (Örebro University), and Kicki Eldh (The Swedish National Heritage Board). The meeting was held at the Ethnographic Museum in Stockholm. The…

Is Repatriation an Ideology? Reviews of “that book”, i.e. Weiss and Springer.

A few weeks ago, The European Journal of Archaeology published three book reviews of the same book. That may seem a bit unusual, but the book in question, Repatriation and Erasing the Past by Elisabeth Weiss (a professor of anthropology at San José State University) and James W. Springer (a retired attorney and anthropologist), can…

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