Museum Removes Famous Shrunken Heads, Human Remains To ‘Decolonize’ Its Collections

Museum Removes Famous Shrunken Heads, Human Remains To ‘Decolonize’ Its Collections


A museum in the U.K. has removed its famous collection of shrunken heads, along with other human remains like an Egyptian mummy, as part of its effort to “decolonize” its collection after accusations of racism, the AP reported.

Oxford University’s Pitt Rivers Museum decided to remove 120 human remains including the shrunken heads after it began an ethical review of the collection in 2017, and received charges of racism and cultural insensitivity for continuing to display the remains. The museum is known as one of the world’s leading institutions for anthropology, ethnography and archaeology.

“Our audience research has shown that visitors often saw the museum’s displays of human remains as a testament to other cultures being ‘savage’, ‘primitive’ or ‘gruesome’,’’ museum director Laura Van Broekhoven said according to the AP.

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“Rather than enabling our visitors to reach a deeper understanding of each other’s ways of being, the displays reinforced racist and stereotypical thinking that goes against the museum’s values today.’’

Part of the ethical review included discussions with Universidad de San Francisco in Quito, Peru, and representatives of the Shuar indigenous community about the shrunken heads, known as tsantsa by the Shuar.

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