Seminar: Deaccessioning Human Remains from Carleton's Biology Collection
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Like many Biology, Anatomy, Art, Anthropology, and other departments at colleges and universities around the world, Carleton’s Biology department has a small collection of biological specimens. These range from seeds and plant specimens to animal bones and other remains. For almost a century our Biology collection has included some human remains, most of which are bones, and including two full skeletons. These remains were once used by faculty teaching human anatomy and development courses, but they have been used very rarely in recent decades and have now been replaced with artificial replicas. We have concluded that we should put these remains to rest in a way that respects the humanity and dignity of the people they belonged to.
Based on what we know about the origin of these bones and skeletons, we believe they belonged to people who lived in Asia. They most likely lived in India, but some of them may have lived in China or other parts of Asia. Unfortunately, the chemicals used in the preservation process have likely destroyed the DNA these bones originally contained, so we don’t believe it will be possible to find out any more about their geographic or cultural origins.
Over the past year and a half Biology faculty members Dan Hernández and Matt Rand have consulted with a number of people about how best to put these remains to rest. Among them are clergy, ethicists, osteologists, our Department of Biology, colleagues at other institutions, and local cemeteries and funeral homes. Based on the advice Dan and Matt received, and their resulting recommendations, the College has formulated a plan for the deaccessioning process. This process is now underway, and we expect it to be complete by the fall of 2022.
At the Biology seminar on January 24 Dan and Matt will share more about the history of the human remains in the Biology collection, how they will be put to rest, and how the College arrived at those plans. Like all Carleton Biology seminars, this seminar will be open to all Carleton students, faculty, and staff.