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Revolutionary Move: Renowned American Museum Sheds Controversial `Human Remains` Exhibits

Revolutionary Move: Renowned American Museum Sheds Controversial `Human Remains` Exhibits

The American Museum of Natural History in New York has announced that it will remove all “human remains” from its exhibits, citing the deeply flawed practice of displaying such items. This decision comes after the museum’s president, Sean Decatur, acknowledged that these collections were made possible by extreme imbalances of power and were used to advance scientific agendas rooted in white supremacy.

The museum’s plan includes getting rid of approximately 12,000 human remains, including the skeletons of indigenous and enslaved people who were not buried. The collection also includes the bodies of around 400 New Yorkers, collected as recently as the 1940s. These remains were initially given to medical schools as part of a “medical collection.” Additionally, the museum has the bones of five Black adults unearthed from a Manhattan cemetery for enslaved people in 1903.

Decatur emphasized the legacy of dehumanizing Black bodies through enslavement and how these bodies were treated and dehumanized in service of scientific projects. He stated that identifying a restorative and respectful action in consultation with local communities is essential.

The issue of displaying human remains is not limited to the American Museum of Natural History. Many other US medical and anthropological institutions, such as the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia and the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, are also facing similar challenges. The Penn Museum in Philadelphia has issued an apology in the past for its collection containing Black and indigenous skulls.

In response to these issues, the natural history museum has established new policy guidelines. It will remove human remains from display and improve the way they are stored. The museum also aims to allocate greater resources for determining the origins and identities of the remains.

In conclusion, the American Museum of Natural History’s decision to remove human remains from its exhibits reflects a recognition of the deeply flawed and racially motivated practices that led to the creation of these collections. By taking this step, the museum aims to address the historical dehumanization of marginalized communities and work towards a more respectful and inclusive approach to curating its collection.

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