"Everyone loves mummies" is a sentence I heard many times in my years working on the ethics of human remains in museums.
But is that so? What stories are accessible to the public? Are feelings about human remains that simple? And if someone does not feel comfortable with human remains in museums, what platform do they have to share their thoughts and become active participants in this conversation?
Mummy Stories was born.
- Dr Angela Stienne
Mummy Stories is a community and multi-media platform with one aim: changing the narrative on human remains in museums, one person and one story at a time.
In 2016, Mummy Stories was created as a platform to share contemporary research on human remains in museums, and to give individuals a voice in the conversation on the retention, study, and display of human remains in museums.
In five years, international debates have evolved, the conversation has been brought to the media thanks to exceptional community efforts, and restitutions, repatriations, and removal from display have become the heart of a very important conversation. And yet, there is still a lot to do internationally to forster conversations that explore, challenge, and debate the very presence of human remains in museums around the world; especially human remains that have been displaced and displayed in countries where they do not belong.
Over the years, Mummy Stories has evolved to. It went from a platform dedicated to exploring Egyptian human remains in museums, to a more encompassing project that explores displaced and displayed human remains in museums and culture more generally. It went from collecting public stories, to fostering conversations, hosting guest blogs by emerging museum leaders, and hosting events around the UK and Europe. It is soon going to be a book, Mummified, published by Manchester University Press, with more engagement projects in the work too!
But the ethos of Mummy Stories remains the same: the change we want to see in the display, study and retention of human remains in museums starts with better, more human, more accessible conversations, and with greater awareness of the historical past, greater understanding of the contemporary debates, and much greater listening and care for the communities linked to the bodies that museums host.
A conversation about being human.
"I work for the economic development agency for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Part of my work is support for the heritage sector. Finding Mummy Stories was great for me as we looked to encourage museums to think about different ways of telling the story of exhibits and of the museum, and engaging as effectively as possible with the public, not just direct visitors.The website was inspiring and Angela delivered a fantastic presentation around these themes for us."
Dr Angela Stienne
I am a museum researcher, cultural historian, public speaker, and author. I have spent the best of the past decade researching ways to engage the public with the ethics of bodies in museums.
I have a PhD in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester, where I wrote a thesis on a cultural history of Egyptian mummified bodies in France and England, having previously done an Egyptology degree.
I believe in a decolonial, anti-racist, and deeply human museum practice, and I believe that emotional conversations, honest and challenging narratives, and engaging storytelling should be at the heart of public engagement.
I work as a museum consultant, a writer, and I am also the founder of The Lyme Museum, a project that explores invisible illnesses and disabilities in museums through materiality and storytelling. I have run Mummy Stories on my own for the past five years, and I'm glad to have you part of this journey!