British museums fear putting skulls on display because of protests
Human skulls or ancients mummies are being removed from British museums for fear of insulting minority religious groups, academics have warned.
Already museums around the country have been forced to close coffin lids, remove skeletons and respectfully replace the shroud on mummies in order to placate protesters. There are fears such artefacts could be banned altogether.
Small groups such as the Pagan Organisation Honouring the Ancient Dead claim that it is against the religious beliefs of our ancestors to put bodies on show.
Museums are becoming increasingly nervous about displaying human remains. Seventeen have drawn up guidelines advising curators to warn the public and only display photographs of mummies with a shroud.
The Egypt gallery at Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery now has half-closed coffin lids on its display of mummies. Manchester University Museum covered up an unwrapped mummy and removed the head of an Iron Age bog body. The Museum of London removed the skeleton of a boy with rickets.
In a new book Dr Tiffany Jenkins, of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), pointed out that mummies, skeletons and skulls are often the most popular display in museums.
Dr Jenkins feared that the guidance will mean that eventually there will be no human remains on display at all for fear of offending any number of small groups.
“The profession is overreacting to the claims of small minority groups – such as the Pagan organisation Honouring the Ancient Dead. Curiously, the profession do not take into account the feelings of other Pagan groups who advocate the use of human remains in research and display, such as Pagans for Archaeology. This reflects the unease within the sector with researching and displaying human remains.”
A recent opinion survey for English Heritage shows that nine tenths of the public are comfortable with displays of human remains.