Category Archive 'Pitt Rivers Museum'

19 Sep 2020

Then, They Came for the Shrunken Heads

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The Pitt Rivers Museum is removing a popular exhibit precisely because it tells the truth about primitive people. Yahoo:

The University of Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum has removed a collection of shrunken heads on display over concerns that they “reinforced racist and stereotypical thinking.”

On Monday, the acclaimed museum shared in a statement that visitors will see a number of “contentious displays” removed from its exhibits when its doors reopen to the public on Sept. 22.

The museum — which is one of the leading museums of anthropology, ethnography, and archaeology in the world — has removed 1230 human remains from its display as part of a museum-wide effort to “decolonize” the institution.

According to The Washington Post, decolonizing is described as “a process that institutions undergo to expand the perspectives they portray beyond those of the dominant cultural group, particularly white colonizers.”

Among the remains removed are the South American tsantas, also known as the “shrunken heads,” which were acquired by the museum between 1884 and 1936.

While the heads have been one of the museum’s most popular attractions since the 1940s, museum director Laura Van Broekhoven said that many visitors found the remains as “a testament to other cultures being ‘savage’, ‘primitive’ or ‘gruesome’.”

According to the museum, during the 19th and 20th centuries, the shrunken heads were collector’s items and were often traded by colonialists. These exchanges led “to a steep increase in violent warfare” at the time.

“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,” she continued. “The removal of the human remains also brings us in line with sector guidelines and code of ethics.”


You have to admire the weaseley attribution of the responsibility for head hunting to capitalist colonialist collectors.

02 Apr 2007

Oxford’s Shrunken Head Collection in Danger From the Left

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Maria Grasso, a right-thinking Oxonian, sounds the tocsin over wooley-headed leftist threats to the Pitt Rivers Museum’s most popular exhibit.

Recent reports suggest that some of the staff at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, England, are feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the museum’s famous ‘shrunken heads’ exhibit. They’re planning a review of the exhibit with an eye for making it more ‘respectful’, and there are even rumours of the heads being repatriated to South America. …

Dr Laura Peers, a curator at the Pitt Rivers Museum and a member of the UK government committee that published a report for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the handling of human remains, recently called into question the ‘ethics’ of the exhibit. She told the Oxford Times that she felt ‘uncomfortable’ with aspects of the shrunken heads display, and that she ‘personally would like to know more what the communities in Ecuador and Peru feel about it’. ‘This is an awkward area where personal views and professional training become mixed’, said Dr Peers (2).

In a recent statement to the press, Michael O’Hanlon, director of the Museum, said: ‘The Pitt Rivers Museum tries to tread a careful line between acknowledging the very considerable public interest in these historical displays on the one hand and the shifting ethical sensitivities on the other…

Read the whole thing.

Now, if only we could hire the temporary services of an old-fashioned Amazonian shaman, and augment that collection with some richly deserving potential specimens, already well-shrunken in understanding.

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