The sourcing of cadavers for North American skeletal reference collections occurred immediately after death and targeted the poor and marginalised. In Europe, collections sourced bodies that were buried and unclaimed after some time in cemeteries with no perpetual care mandate, and may have also targeted the underprivileged. The relationship between socio-economic status (SES) and abandonment was examined in a sample of unclaimed remains (603 adults and 98 children) collected from cemeteries in the city of Lisbon, Portugal, that were incorporated in a collection. Results demonstrate that low SES individuals are not more likely to be abandoned nor to be incorporated in the collection than higher SES individuals. Furthermore, historical data indicate that the poorest were not incorporated into the collection, because of burial practices. Although the accumulation of collections in North America was facilitated by structural violence that targeted the poor and marginalised, this phenomenon seems largely absent in the Lisbon collection.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, museums in Europe and North America were at their largest and most powerful. New buildings were bigger; objects flooded into them, and more people visited them than ever before. The Manchester Museum is an ideal candidate for understanding cultures of display in twentieth-century Britain. It is a treasure trove of some four million priceless objects that are irreplaceable and unique. Like many large European collections, the origins of the Manchester Museum are to be found in a private cabinet: that of John Leigh Philips. This book traces the fate of his cabinet from his death in 1814. The establishment of the Manchester Natural History Society (MNHS) allowed naturalists to carve out a space in Manchester's cultural landscape. The Manchester Museum's development was profoundly affected by the history of the University in which it operated. In January 1868, the Natural History Society formally dissolved, and an interim commission took control of its collections; the Manchester Geological Society transferred its collections the following year. The new collection was to be purely scientific, comprising geology, zoology and botany, with no place for some of the more exotic specimens of the Society. The objects in the collection became part of Manchester's civic identity, bringing with them traces of science, empire and the exotic. Other museological changes were afoot in the 1990s. Natural history collections became key sites for public engagement with environmental issues and biodiversity and more recently as sites for exhibiting art.
Prologue: the Manchester Natural History
Like many large Europeancollections, the origins of the Manchester Museum are
to be found in a private cabinet: that of John Leigh Philips (1761–1814; see figure
1.1). Philips was involved in textile manufacturing as a partner in his family-based
firm, and served in the First Battalion of the Manchester and Salford Volunteers as
Lieutenant Colonel.1 The range of objects gathered by Philips and his contemporaries in the eighteenth-century provinces cannot be categorised using modern disciplinary parameters. He
The story of Rafaela, and my own stories, which I recount
in the pages of this book, exist because we have both had access to
Egyptian mummies in Europeancollections – access to bodies that
have been taken from their home country. Being able to view and interact
with Egyptian mummies and artefacts in European museums in the way that
I have done throughout my career remains a privilege, and one
was put to one side in February 1876.23 Swinhoe
died not long afterwards, in October 1877, bringing an end to the project.
Thomas Brewer, an American ornithologist who made a tour of Europeancollections in 1876, visited ‘a few of the private collections of natural history
in which England abounds’. His published account mentions collections
belonging to Howard Saunders, Henry Tristram and Osbert Salvin (Salvin’s
collections of Central American birds, eggs and insects were kept at The Den).
Brewer described Dresser’s egg collection as ‘the most complete collection
African objects, West African trade and a Liverpool museum
Dmitri van den Bersselaar
intermediary roles. Their manipulation of European ethnographic
collectors’ expectations of style and authenticity can be analysed
in terms of African agency. The stories that African traders and
middlemen told about the provenance and function of these objects
– though frequently brief and incomplete, and sometimes untrue
– became an important aspect of the meaning of such objects in
, they touch upon important – and timely – issues regarding the relationships between China and Britain in the mid- to late nineteenth century.
This chapter is part of a wider project documenting the representation of Yuanmingyuan material. I have benefited greatly from participating in a series of workshops in 2013, ‘Hidden in plain sight: non-Europeancollections in military culture’, funded by the RSE and the NAM, and organised by Henrietta Lidchi and Stuart Allan. My thanks to all those who were involved in this event. I am also grateful to the
reads ‘Refugees welcome’.
There is a strong link between this welcome of refugees,
displacement and the museum. Displacement is the act of uprooting
something or someone, from a family, from a familiar environment, from
where this person or thing belongs. The history of extra-Europeancollections in European museums is a history of displacement – it
is the story of humans and artefacts that have been
Champollion formed an entire national collection in a
short time by acquiring objects that were already in Europeancollections, rather than sending agents to collect them in Egypt, which
had long been the custom for European museums. 15 The first group of objects came from
his friend, Edmé-Antoine Durand, who had Egyptian artefacts in
his private collection. The 2,150 Egyptian objects acquired from this
Post-connoisseurial dystopia and the profusion of things
often, this is articulated in terms of different
‘communities’, that members will ‘have their own stories’ that they would
want to see in the museum or collected for the future. The social history
movement, which, as we have noted, was important in propelling the
growth of contemporary everyday collecting, argued that museums and
Europecollections needed to rectify previous failures to represent the everyday life
of the majority of the population, especially the working class and women.
The remit was further expanded with the influence of identity politics