Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums

Bone Rooms From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums In a U S army doctor dug up the remains of a Dakota man who had been killed in Minnesota Carefully recording his observations he sent the skeleton to a museum in Washington DC that was collect

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  • Title: Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums
  • Author: Samuel J. Redman
  • ISBN: 9780674660410
  • Page: 312
  • Format: Hardcover
  • In 1864 a U.S army doctor dug up the remains of a Dakota man who had been killed in Minnesota Carefully recording his observations, he sent the skeleton to a museum in Washington, DC, that was collecting human remains for research In the bone rooms of this museum and others like it, a scientific revolution was unfolding that would change our understanding of the humanIn 1864 a U.S army doctor dug up the remains of a Dakota man who had been killed in Minnesota Carefully recording his observations, he sent the skeleton to a museum in Washington, DC, that was collecting human remains for research In the bone rooms of this museum and others like it, a scientific revolution was unfolding that would change our understanding of the human body, race, and prehistory.In Bone Rooms Samuel Redman unearths the story of how human remains became highly sought after artifacts for both scientific research and public display Seeking evidence to support new theories of human evolution and racial classification, collectors embarked on a global competition to recover the best specimens of skeletons, mummies, and fossils The Smithsonian Institution built the largest collection of human remains in the United States, edging out stiff competition from natural history and medical museums springing up in cities and on university campuses across America When the San Diego Museum of Man opened in 1915, it mounted the largest exhibition of human skeletons ever presented to the public.The study of human remains yielded discoveries that increasingly discredited racial theory as a consequence, interest in human origins and evolution ignited by ideas emerging in the budding field of anthropology displaced race as the main motive for building bone rooms Today, debates about the ethics of these collections continue, but the terms of engagement were largely set by the surge of collecting that was already waning by World War II.

    One thought on “Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums”

    1. Do you ever see a skeleton in a museum, and wonder “where did it come from?” Did this person donate their body to science? Was it dug up for display? Was it stolen from a Native American burial ground in New Mexico? For a culture that largely believes that human remains are sacred, we sure have a lot of them on public display. And for every bone on display behind glass, there are hundreds more hidden away—tagged, measured, and kept in boxes on shelves in temperature-controlled museum stora [...]

    2. Samuel Redman's book does an incredible job of bringing together the history of museums, an intellectual history of anthropology, and the history of medicine. Rather than distinguish between medical and anthropology museums, Redman views the two collecting urges as part of the same phenomenon shaped by similar (but not identical) motives. If you've done reading about the history of medicine or the history of anthropology, this book will put those two narratives in conversation nicely. He's very [...]

    3. It was an interesting history, but SO dry - it took me quite a while to finish it, and it also suggested to me that not too many people are enthusiastic about reading these kinds of monographs, as there were quite a few odd typos in the middle of the book. It's a thorough history, though, and if you have any interest in medical museums, a worthwhile read.

    4. Redman looks at the history of bone collecting and museums in the United States. Looking at how museums collected bones in the late 19th early 20th-century in order to validate racist ideologies he then traces how scientific racism and eugenics fell out of favour. The most interesting part of the book was his epilogue which discussed efforts to repatriate bones and skeletons.

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