Human remainsRequest for Repatriation of Human
Remains to New Zealand
Minutes of meeting of the Trustees - April 2008
The Trustees considered the request by the New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa under section 47 Human Tissue Act 2004 for the repatriation of:
Seven preserved tattooed heads (Museum registration numbers below*)
Nine human bone fragments (Museum registration numbers below**)
They considered the dossier of evidence, including the opinions of independent experts, which had been published on the Museum’s website and included the case submitted by Te Papa Tongarewa, in relation to the Museum’s policy, dated 6 October 2006.
They agreed that the remains were probably 100-200 years old; and that (in relation to paragraph 5.12 of their policy), Te Papa Tongarewa’s claim was endorsed by the New Zealand government.
The museum policy starts from a presumption of retention which can be outweighed in certain circumstances. They concluded that in the case of the seven preserved tattooed heads it was not clear whether or not a process of mortuary disposal had been interrupted or disturbed; and that it was not clear that the importance of the remains to an original community outweighed the significance and importance of the remains as sources of information about human history.
On the other hand, they concluded that it was very probable that the fragments of human bone had been part of a process of mortuary disposal, and that the importance of the remains to the claimants outweighed any likely public benefit of retaining the remains in the collection. Therefore they agreed that the nine human bone fragments should be transferred to Te Papa Tongarewa.
*Oc1913,0519.1; Oc1921,1014.1; Oc1925,-.46; Oc,+.1998; Oc,NZ.69; Oc,NZ.70; and Oc,NZ.71
**Oc1895,-.396; Oc1895,-.397; Oc1895,-.627; Oc1895,-.628; & Oc1895,-.630; Oc1895,-..630; Oc1895,-.631; Oc1895,-.633 and Oc1895,-.634
1. Web announcement
Request for the Repatriation of Human Remains by Te Papa Tongarewa
In accordance with our policy on Human Remains, we are publishing the dossier relating to the above claim received from New Zealand.
If anyone wishes to make any comment, could they please write, by 11 April 2008 to:
The British Museum
Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3DG
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org (pdf)
2. Correspondence between the British Museum and Te Papa Tongarewa
2.0. Contents (pdf)
2.29 - Statement being updated