Request 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

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:

Andrew Burnett
Deputy Director
The British Museum
Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3DG

Or email: (pdf)

2. Correspondence between the British Museum and Te Papa Tongarewa

2.0. Contents (pdf)

2.1. The British Museum’s Policy on Human Remains (pdf)

2.2. Summary of meeting with representatives from Te Papa Tongarewa 17.11.04 (pdf)

2.3. Letter to Neil MacGregor from James Te Puni and Catherine Nesus 01.02.05 (pdf)

2.4. Letter to Lissant Bolton from James Te Puni 12.04.06 (pdf)

2.5. Letter to James Te Puni from Andrew Burnett 28.04.06 (pdf)

2.6. Letter to Andrew Burnett from Te Taru White 22.06.06 (pdf)

2.7. Letter to Te Taru White from Andrew Burnett 06.07.06 (pdf)

2.8. Letter to Andrew Burnett to Te Taru White 17.08.06 (pdf)

2.9. Letter to Te Taru White from Andrew Burnett 16.10.06 (pdf)

2.10. Letter to Andrew Burnett from Te Taru White 25.10.06 (pdf)

2.11. Extract from Board Meeting 23.11.06 (pdf)

2.12. Briefing note in preparation for Board Meeting 23.11.06 (pdf)

2.13. Overall list of New Zealand human remains in BM collection (pdf)

2.14. Letter to Te Taru White from Andrew Burnett 05.12.06 (pdf)

2.15. Letter to Jonathan Hunt ONZ from Andrew Burnett 05.12.06 (pdf)

2.16. Letter to Philip Endicott from Andrew Burnett 19.12.06 (pdf)

2.17. Letter to Andrew Burnett from Seddon Bennington 20.01.07 (pdf)

2.18. Independent report by Philip Endicott (pdf)

2.19. Letter to Te Taru White from Andrew Burnett 22.02.07 (pdf)

2.20. Letter to Seddon Bennington from Andrew Burnett 19.03.07 (pdf)

2.21. Letter to Tristram Besterman from Andrew Burnett 20.03.07 (pdf)

2.22. Independent report by Tristram Besterman (pdf)

2.23. Letter to Neil MacGregor from Jonathan Hunt ONZ 17.04.07 (pdf)

2.24. Letter to Te Taru White from Andrew Burnett 30.05.07 (pdf)

2.25. Comment on Endicott report by Robert Foley (pdf)

2.26. Lissant Bolton’s report to Trustees following visit to Te Papa Tongarewa (pdf)

2.27. Letter to Bronwen Chang from Andrew Burnett 13.12.07 (pdf)

2.28. Letter to Jonathan Mane-Wheoki from Andrew Burnett 13.12.07 (pdf)

2.29 - Statement being updated

2.30. Letter to Andrew Burnett from Jonathan Mane-Wheoki 18.02.08 (pdf)

2.31. Letter to Jonathan Mane-Wheoki from Andrew Burnett 10.03.08 (pdf)

2.32. Letter to Andrew Burnett from Te Herekiekie Herewine 12.03.08 (pdf)

2.33. Comments on Dossier from Te Papa Tongarewa (pdf)

2.34. List of repatriations to Te Papa Tongarewa since 2004 (pdf)

2.35. Response from Maui Solomon on Lissant Bolton’s Report (pdf)