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So we visited Manchesters Natural History Museum on Tuesday. I must've been there 50 times and each time enjoy the 'Egyptian Mummies' exhibition most. However this time ALL the mummies were covered with a white sheet. This was because the museum was ...

19 replies

Disenchanted · 29/05/2008 09:33

Personally I think if they are debating whether they should be on display perhaps they should have been left in their original place of rest

The comments board was overwhelmed with 'unveil the mummies' messages.

I really do think there is a purpose for it and its an interesting piece that should be on display.

What really confused me though is the fact they had covered the mummies but had another display about the 'Lindow Man' who was basically a naturally mummified man who was found in a bog in the 1970's.

His torso and squished head was on display.

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Disenchanted · 29/05/2008 09:35

And if you were to take it to extremes ... is it morally right to display any dead thing? If not then the whole museum would be shut down as most of it consists of taxidermied animals and skeletal animal remains.

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Beetroot · 29/05/2008 09:36

Isn't a bit late now?

Can they put them back where they were found?

I think it is important for us to see and understand history and to that end an exhibition of Egyptian Mummies is a wonderful example.

It will inspire children, to perhaps become historians, archaeologists etc.

NorthernLurker · 29/05/2008 09:37

I think the ship has sailed on that one! What would they do - send them back to Egypt? Tbh you can argue about the moral right and wrong here but you can't change the historical reality of the discovery and removal of the remains and the investigation of what they tell us.

Oliveoil · 29/05/2008 09:38

the museum said that they were displaying them as they would have been in the ground, ie covered

the Lindow Man was found uncovered iirc

Disenchanted · 29/05/2008 09:39

Thats the point, they will keep the mummies there but just have a sheet over them so the human remains aren't visable!

What is the point of them being there then if you can't see them?

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Disenchanted · 29/05/2008 09:42

here is a statement from the museum

It actully states there they are not against displaying human remains, but from the 2 museum guides I spoke to about, it seems that they are unsure if the public is opposed to it and they are trying to judge the publics oppinion on having them on display.

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TheProvincialLady · 29/05/2008 09:44

It does seem very daft I agree. I was a museum curator before DS and there is a lot of debate about what to do with human remains, things that have been taken from other cultures, all sorts of cultural sensitivities. I agree with a certain amount of it, but what you describe sounds crazy - it's neither respecting the remains and putting them back where they came from, nor making use of them for educational purposes.

My feeling is that none of these dead people give a monkeys that they are displayed in a museum, and the present day Egyptians don't seem to have these sensibilities, so why should we?

Nighbynight · 29/05/2008 09:44

This does make me a bit uncomfortable, actually. I have seen exhibitions where iron age people have been dug up and put on display, and even early medieval remains.

I am sure the people didnt think when they buried their loved ones, that their skeletons would be in an exhibition in about 800 years time.
On the other hand, a mummy is preserved. The body has been worked on and becomes almost a work of art. Jeremy Bentham, anyone? or Lenin? There is a tradition of displaying mummified or preserved remains.

sarah293 · 29/05/2008 09:45

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn

theyoungvisiter · 29/05/2008 09:46

sounds like a PR stunt to me. (and I work in PR).

There are more sensible ways of initiating a debate about this than covering them up with a shroud - that smacks of trying to create a furore to me, along the lines of Heinz claiming they were withdrawing salad cream only to "save it" at the 11th hour due to "huge public demand".

And as you say, they only bothered to cover up the most popular exhibit, not the other human remains on display.

Nighbynight · 29/05/2008 09:46

how would you feel about putting skeletons of Victorian people on display then? or soldiers from the first world war?

Nighbynight · 29/05/2008 09:48

oh, there was a skeleton of a hanged man in the natural histroy museum in Oxford for years, I think it is gone out of sight now. It was from the 18th century iirc.

Anna8888 · 29/05/2008 09:50

Oh really.

Mummies are dead. They have no feelings.

I did a thread earlier this week on whether or not I should send my daughter on the school trip to the circus (with tigers, lions and elephants). I decided not to - those animals, IMO, should be roaming free in the wilds of Africa, not living in cages in a grotty suburb of Paris to be gawped at by children and controlled with a whip. Those animals have feelings.

Dead humans, dead animals - no problem to me.

PhDiva · 29/05/2008 09:51

What disingenuine rot!

What basis are they using for their moral stance? If they are reasoning that we should treat remains in the same way that people in the past treated them (and there certainly is a case for this), then close down all museums! Perhaps other objects were even more revered than mummies - sacred vases or whatever....and Lindow man, as far as I remember, was the victim of sacrifice, and was therefore deliberately placed in his watery grave to stay there (probably to mark a boundary in some way), so really, he should be displayed under water, or within a block of peat, or put back where he came from.

Maybe they are just trying it as a publicity stunt?

theyoungvisiter · 29/05/2008 09:55

I agree it needs to be done sensitively, but often it's a vital part of understanding a culture. Where would you draw the line?

Refusing to display shrunken heads, even though they were made as fetishes to be preserved and kept on display?

Refusing to display a coffin or sarcophagus that had a body inside it but not visible?

Refusing to show medical specimens from previous eras, even if they are human body parts?

What about products made from human remains like wigs made of human hair?

I don't think there is anything disrespectful in showing dead bodies provided it is done in a respectful context - in previous eras it was often considered a huge mark of respect, people like Lenin were embalmed precisely to allow their body to be put on display for as long as possible.

Nighbynight · 29/05/2008 09:56

but saying they are dead and have no feelings isn't enough. I imagine we would all be revolted if someone went around lifting dead people from graves, even if they have no liing relatives, and turned them into a contemporary art exhibition?

Nighbynight · 29/05/2008 09:56

yes, TYV, the respect is an important part.

Anna8888 · 29/05/2008 12:04

Bodies that have been buried in recent, modern European times are not preserved for posterity - so there is nothing cultural that we can learn from exhuming them. They are not an art exhibit - they are a pile of bones.

Unlike mummies.

Nighbynight · 29/05/2008 12:30

yes, anna - I felt rather uncomfortable viewing a pile of bones in a celtic village in Austria recently. Really, there was nowt to be learned, and I felt the poor person deserved just to rest in peace!

If a person went to the trouble of beign mummified though, its a bit like dressing up for a ball - surely they are expecting to be seen and admired?? Difficult to know, unless we have an insight into ancient egyptian way of thinking, but it seems OK to me.

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