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Ethics at the British Museum

Mummies are one of wonders of ancient Egyptian history. Mummies have attracted special attention because they are human bodies that were maintained via mummification for thousands of years. They were regarded as an interesting historical object and displayed in museums. At our present time, with worldwide recognition of human right and human dignity, the question of displaying mummies in museums as objects with other historical objects should raise some concern.

Walking through room 62-63 of Egyptian death and afterlife (mummies) at the British Museum is a struggle due to overcrowding of people and displayed objects. It was hard to contemplate the objects or even read the labels. Mummies and objects were equally displayed on the shelves. Around the room, the mummies were lying on display with no names to make them seen more as human remains rather than objects. Thinking of these people (the ancient Egyptians) as humans, and how they put great efforts to be remembered, and to prepare themselves for the afterlife, I can say that their remains deserve to be treated with more respect.

In contrast, in room 37, the body of an unknown man found in England named Lindow Man was displayed in a more respectable quiet corner, with few people in the room quietly approaching the display, taking a longer time to look and read the labels. It was a completely different atmosphere compared with the room of the ancient Egyptians. This raises question about the prejudice or inequality of museum displays.


Aisha is a current PhD candidate in Museum Studies at University of Leicester (since February 2016). She has previously studied for an MA in Museum Studies at University of Leicester, and worked both as a Curator Assistant at New Walk Museum and at Qatar Museums Authority.

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