Episode 12

12. Dead Bodies in Museums Part 2


May 24th, 2016

7 mins 16 secs

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About this Episode

Image: Lenin's mausoleum, Moscow. CC by Veni

The American Association of Museums (AAM) has this to say about human remains in its code of ethics: “The unique and special nature of human remains and funerary and sacred objects is recognized as the basis of all decisions concerning such collections collections-related activities promote the public good rather than individual financial gain.” When AAM uses the word “special,” it means that every instance of a dead body is special, not a special body from a special person. What is different about displaying the everyman?

In the second half of this two part series about dead bodies, we look at how cultures view their own dead from museums to mausoleums. We explore the Body Worlds exhibits, which bring visitors face-to-face with dozens of dead bodies, all identifying markers removed. We also discuss a landfill in Staten Island, where much of the sorting of museum artifacts and human remains from rubble took place after the September 11 attacks. 


Give Me My Father's Body: The Life of Minik, the New York Eskimo

Regarding the Dead: Human Remains in the British Museum - The British Museum creates guidelines for displaying dead bodies. 

Code of Ethics for Museums - AAM