(Ancestral) Remains

Referring to human remains kept in collections, this term restores a sense of familial belonging to collected peoples and re-situates them in relationship to contemporary communities. This is not quite to say that the term humanises these items, (as “human remains” already does this), but rather, reminds us of the connections between the past and the present and the personhood of these items – a layered meaning that is somewhat obscured by the clinical term: “human remains”. Using “ancestral remains” reminds us that these collected items are also someone’s family – a shift in terminology and thinking that might help to change how we relate to remains in collections.

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