New York City Museum Will Remove Human Remains on Display As It Acknowledges Researchers Used the Collections ‘to Advance Deeply Flawed Scientific Agendas Rooted In White Supremacy’

The beloved American Museum of Natural History in New York City announced it will make changes to some of its policies regarding human remains, including the decision to no longer collect them.

It’s the latest museum to consider cultural insensitivity and want to progress forward. The museum’s president, Sean Decatur, said all of the remains will be pulled from “12 display cases,” stating that these kinds of collections are showcased due to “extreme imbalances of power.”

American Museum of Natural History To Remove Human remains
The American Museum of Natural History is set to remove the human remains and no longer collect them for exhibitions. (NBC New York/American Museum of Natural History/Youtube screenshot)

“Moreover, many researchers in the 19th and 20th centuries then used such collections to advance deeply flawed scientific agendas rooted in white supremacy – namely the identification of physical differences that could reinforce models of racial hierarchy,” Decatur wrote in a letter to his staff.

Trending Today:

Decatur, who started his position in April, acknowledged that the individuals from Native American and African American communities who didn’t give consent for their remains to be in an exhibit at a museum. According to local news, this includes the remains of five enslaved people who were exhumed from graves in the early 1900s. 

Per the New York Times, the remains were taken from a cemetery in Manhattan during construction. The museum came under fire after historians were researching the cemetery recently and traced people who had been buried there to the museum.

Decatur outlined that the museum will commit to connecting with the local communities to figure out a “restorative” and “respectful” approach. 

“Certainly, as an African American, the question of race is one of particular interest,” Decatur told the Times. “The legacy of dehumanizing Black bodies through enslavement continues after death in how those bodies were treated and dehumanized in service of a scientific project.”

The museum also plans to continue to work toward returning the collections of remains and other artifacts back to its descendants, PIX 11 reported. Speaking to his staff, the president said that taking the remains from their burial sites “ensured that the denial of basic human dignity would continue even in death.”

Like The American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Prehistory and Early History in Germany announced last month that they will return human skulls from a former African colony back to their origin countries.

Read the original story here.

Never miss a story — sign up for ATLANTA BLACK STAR’S free daily newsletters to stay up-to-date on the latest developments from politics, social issues to celebrity news.

Back to top