Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dead reckoning

Here’s a question for you. Given that it’s offensive to Maori and contravenes its own written policy, how does Te Papa justify its exhibition of the human remains of the Egyptian woman Keku in Egypt beyond the tomb?

Its very confusing. Te Taru White, Chief Executive and Kaihautu of Te Papa states on the Egypt beyond the tomb podcast, “As far as Maori are concerned, any public display of remains is inconsistent with very, very deep cultural feelings.”

Seddon Bennington, CEO of Te Papa agrees “Indigenous communities have expressed pretty consistently that they don’t think museums should hold human remains in their collections.”

OK, so if it is offensive to Maori and other indigenous people, and given that Te Papa has a written collections development and human remains policy forbidding it, how do they end up exhibiting a mummy? Simple. “We decided to make an exception to our policy.” says Bennington.
The illustration above is from the Lift the lid on Mehit web feature on Te Papa’s Egypt beyond the tomb web page. As Te Papa’s CEO also mentions on the podcast it is the responsibility of museums to be “respectful.”