Place, practice and meaning: the museum as a deathscape

Morton, S (2018) Place, practice and meaning: the museum as a deathscape. In: Skeletons, Stories and Social Bodies Conference, 20 - 22 March 2018, University of Southampton, UK.

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Over the last 30 years shifts in museum practice, calls for the repatriation of the remains of Indigenous peoples and wider socio-cultural changes around the meanings of the dead body have resulted in human remains becoming situated as culturally sensitive parts of museum collections. Within current museum practice there is a connection between the concept of respectful treatment of the dead, controlling, encouraging and attempting to prevent certain behaviours in public spaces where human remains are present and the identity of the museum as an ethical institution. Yet despite museums being spaces in which we encounter and interact with the dead and discuss death, they are not sites considered by the current literature that deals with deathscapes (Kong 1999, Maddrell and Sidaway 2010). Following Young and Light’s (2013) argument that within deathscapes the living undertake various forms of performance and embodied practice in relation to the dead, this paper examines the interplay between place, practice and meaning at the Hunterian Museum at Royal College of Surgeons of England, exploring the sensitivities of human remains, performance of respectful treatment and meanings and social role of the dead body and death in the museum landscape. In understanding the Hunterian Museum as a deathscape it becomes evident that human remains in museums are not dissociated clinical objects but continue to be socially situated, and that the role of the museum in social and cultural understandings of death is a subject deserving of further research.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Date Deposited: 14 Aug 2018 16:08
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:50
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