Mr Simon Hughes, BA MSc
BA Joint Honours, Archaeology and Anthropology – Durham University
MSc, Palaeopathology – Durham University
Museums, curation and the preservation of human remains in English museums.
Research on Human Remains in a Museum Context: Storage, Study or Reburial?
The primary aim of this research is to evaluate the relationship between research – through access- and the preservation of skeletal remains stored in English museums. This is to find out to what extent research causes deterioration, and whether the information we gain from research is worth the potential damage we are doing. To do this new methodology is needed, to allow the creation of a retrospective baseline condition assessment. Allowing condition assessments, or the change in preservation, to be calculated without the need of a longitude study.
The secondary aim of this research is to evaluate other potential causes of deterioration, to see if they have more of an impact than access, and to discuss what this would mean for museum storage and research.
Finally, this research hopes to better understand storage in general, as well as the culture of storing archaeological material. Highlighting problems we in the heritage industry could potentially face in the future (such as filling up and over filling of storehouses).
Outcomes: This research hopes to assess the main cause, or causes, of the deterioration of skeletal remains held in English museums. It also hopes to discuss and evaluate any cost-effective methods that can be implemented by museums, to help them lessen this deterioration. Furthermore, this study will consider the role of technology in the solving of problems relating to museum storage. Finally, an assessment will be made on whether research – through access- should continue or is the damage too great.
Assistant Curator and Volunteer Coordinator at the Durham Museum
Volunteer Manager for the Bow Trust