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  • Angela Stienne

Introducing The Bridge

Welcome to the new era of Mummy Stories!

The Bridge is a new Mummy Stories initiative to introduce individuals around the world whose experience of human remains in cultural settings is at the core of their practice and/or lived experience. The Bridge takes the shape of short informal interviews and profiles, exploring where we come from, where we go next, and what conversations we need to have to move the question of the ethics of human remains in the 21st century museum forward.

A bridge to a very human, and therefore very complex, conversation.

A drawing of a mummified head surrounded with flowers, with the words the bridge overlaid.
Our original Mummy Stories logo, hand drawn by artist and Mummy Stories contributor, Caitlin Smits. Inspired by vanitas ( still life artworks which includes various symbolic objects designed to remind the viewer of their mortality, including skulls and flowers), it invites us to question the place of human remains in museums, and is an invitation to have more emotional conversations about life, death, and representations.

After seven years collecting stories and articles from around the world, Mummy Stories is back and committed to finding new creative avenues to bridge the gap between public conversations and debates with individuals working professionally or personally with human remains, with a view to continuing our work embedding ethics in conversations on the collection, study, retention, display, restitution and repatriation of human remains in/from museums. And making them ever more accessible. One of the key learning from Mummy Stories over the years has been a disconnect between the work that is being done behind the scenes and the communication of topics such as ethics, restitution and repatriation to the public. In addition to often being confusing or patronising, those communications that fail to reach the public through an emotional lens often present a "public VS professional" setting: defining who human remains professionals are remains difficult and problematic, often wrongly assuming that communities lack professional expertise. Mummy Stories, of course, rejects the idea that communities do not have the necessary knowledge, lived experience and human rights to have a say in these conversations. With inaccessible conference fees, lack of hybrid features, academic settings still hugely exclusionary in terms of access but also scholarship, and the inaccessibility of the museum sector, the voices we have access to still lack diversity. Instead of platforming differing views, institutions still perpetuate conversations that reject emotional, embedded conversations on ethics, displacement, restitution and repatriation; as we have witness in recent years, some institutions have even become open stages for positioning the we'd hope we had long moved on from. It was time to move the conversation elsewhere. So we're back!

For the next few months, we'll shine a light on individuals around the world who have been involved in rethinking and reshaping the conversation on human remains in museums. We're bridging the gap.


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