Thursday 7 April 2011

What to do with a Collector's Piece Nobody Wants?

Some antiquity collectors will add anything at all to their collections to increase the thrill. This includes desiccated human remains, I have discussed a number of cases of these, Egyptian mummies, Injun skulls, Peruvian corpses bought and sold on the antiquities market by collectors. This raises the question of the respectful manner in which to treat them when they are no longer "needed" in a personal artefact collection. One Idaho museum had to deal with this problem recently.
Police in eastern Idaho are investigating a mummified hand turned over by Museum of Idaho officials [...] [they] haven't been able to link the hand to any missing person cases. It's unclear how old the hand is, but [...] dating and DNA testing might offer clues. Museum Executive Director David Pennock said the museum likely received the hand within the last five years. "It's never been a part of our collection," he said. "Someone dropped it off." He said when the museum first received it workers called other museums for suggestions but got no help."It's just one big question mark," he said. "I think it was assumed that we could find the people who knew what to do with it. Obviously, nobody really wanted to deal with it." He said the hand was forgotten until several weeks ago when a worker found it in a small box. "Just poking through some shelves, there it was," Pennock said, noting it was then decided to turn it over to police. "We are absolutely uninterested in having it," Pennock said. "We just assumed they'd know what to do with it since we didn't know what to do with it".
Vignette: What motivates collectors to add mummified human remains to an "ancient art" collection? Anything deeper than cheap thrills?

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