Large Scale Collections of Biological Material and Ethical First Principles

Abstract. Collecting and storing research materials is within the purview of all anthropologists. The establishment of collections, especially the large new biobanks of biological materials, requires an examination of the ways in which ethical first principles of autonomy, beneficence, and justice integrate with the goals and scientific aims of the collection. This article presents an example […]

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Collecting Human Subjects: Ethics and the Archive in the History of Science and the Historical Life Sciences

Abstract. Anthropological collectors have long engaged in “salvage”—the attempt to metaphorically freeze those artifacts, traditions, and languages in danger of disappearing. Beginning in the 1960s, in an effort to establish global baselines of biological variation, biological anthropologists and human geneticists emphasized the importance of salvaging blood samples from Indigenous peoples whose survival they considered to be […]

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Contemporary Museum Policies and the Ethics of Accepting Human Remains

Abstract. The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology has a policy of accepting all offered human remains into its collections. These remains come from law enforcement agencies and private persons. By accepting Native American and other human remains, the museum assumes all associated legal, ethical, and financial obligations, including complying with NAGPRA regulations and state laws regarding archaeological […]

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Lost in Museums: The Ethical Dimensions of Historical Practices of Anthropological Specimen Exchange

Abstract. The exchange of anthropological objects by museums in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries involved circulation of Indigenous material culture and human remains beyond the institution in which collections were originally accessioned. This paper traces the biography of a Hopi sacred object collected by the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1879 from the Smithsonian Institution to […]

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When Remains are “Lost”: Thoughts on Collections, Repatriation, and Research in American Physical Anthropology

Abstract. Repatriation has been a practical reality for physical anthropology since the passage of NAGPRA in 1990. Even so, discourse in the professional literature regarding what to do about the loss of human skeletal remains has largely been limited to the development of standards for osteological data collection. This article explores the concept of “loss” in […]

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Returning the tataayiyam honuuka’ (Ancestors) to the Correct Home: The Importance of Background Investigations for NAGPRA Claims

Abstract. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) claims process can be frustrating for Native American communities due to hindrances such as the lack of provenience and provenance of collections. Through historic research on and preliminary analysis of Santa Catalina Island archaeological collections assembled by Ralph Glidden and held by museums across the United […]

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Life Histories and Dynamic Objects: The Klasies River Mouth Collection

Abstract. Klasies River Mouth, a Middle Stone Age archaeological site along the southern coast of South Africa, has long held an iconic status within the field of archaeology, for many reasons. In the four decades since its original excavation, the site’s artifact collection has demonstrated dynamic characteristics as the artifacts are analyzed, interpreted, and reinterpreted. The […]

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