Museum procedures - Collections Trust

Museum procedures
This checklist can be saved to your own files for use as necessary.
The following checklist has been drawn from part 3 of the Guidance for the
Care of Human Remains in Museum Collections. Although it is recognised
that the circumstances of public collections holding human remains vary
widely, as do claims for their return, it may be helpful in considering what
actions to take to deal with a claim. The focus of the checklist is on claims for
the return of human remains of overseas origin, but it is relevant to all
claims regardless of origin.
Once a claim is received consider suspending all research, teaching and display using
the remains in question pending resolution of the claim
Enter into an open and constructive dialogue with the claimants
Identify a post-holder within the museum with appropriate skills and training as the
person dealing with the request and as the contact point for the claimants
Formally acknowledge the claim in writing and describe the process for handling it to
the claimant
Clarify the nature and scope of the request including the:
Identity of the claimant(s) and any intermediary/representative
Connection between the claimant(s), the deceased and the basis for their claim
Specific remains being claimed
Claimant(s) wishes for the future of the remains
Information the claimant has regarding any other potential claimants
Seek expert advice, including from the national government of the country from which
the claimant originates, as necessary
© Museums, Libraries & Archives Council 2006
Prepare a report:
Gather together information for a report
Draw on evidence in the original claim
Gather new evidence concerning the request as necessary:
The status of those making the request including genealogical descendants and
cultural communities of origin
The cultural, spiritual and religious significance of the remains
The age of the remains
Information on how the remains were originally removed and acquired
Make sure that you are in possession of all the facts regarding the exact legal status
of the remains within the collection and their current care and use
The scientific, educational and historical value of the remains to the museum & the
Information on how the remains have been used in the past & their future if returned
The policy of the country of origin
Having prepared a report you will wish to take the following steps:
Take external advice on this specific claim
Present the report to the governing body to form the basis of their decision
Document and archive the reasons for the decision reached along with the report and
all correspondence
Inform claimants of the decision and the reasons for it, giving them time to respond
Build any lessons from this claim into future policy
© Museums, Libraries & Archives Council 2006