This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book reflects the central theme, how nature and culture are constructed, reinforced and differentiated with objects in museums. It looks at the history of the Manchester Museum through disciplinary construction and development. The book draws on the work of sociologists, anthropologists and historians of science who have studied the social lives of things. It explores the place of different collections in the administrative and spatial layout of the museum. The book is devoted to the story of the Society and its collections, the Victorian prologue to the main feature. It traces the development of the collection from a private cabinet to its grand neo-Grecian premises in the centre of industrialising Manchester. The book maps out the gradual unravelling of William Boyd Dawkins's continuous sequence within the Museum.
Samuel J.M.M. Alberti
Artefacts and disciplinary formation
Samuel J.M.M. Alberti
This chapter presents a study of relationships between objects and people, and explores the construction of nature and culture in museums. The material culture upon which the disciplines were based could be arranged in an uninterrupted sequence of development that encompassed both nature and culture; the geological eras segued into prehistoric, historic and, finally, contemporary 'savage' cultures. William Boyd Dawkins shaped the collection at the inception of the Manchester Museum through his interest in cave deposits and particularly flints. The prehistorians approached archaeology as a taxonomic and chronological enterprise, using stratigraphical techniques to date and classify artefacts in evolutionary sequences. Roderick Urwick Sayce clarified the disciplinary divisions in the archaeological collections, as prehistoric archaeology was organised and staffed alongside ethnology. The professional identity of archaeological curators was consolidated by the formation of the Society of Museum Archaeologists in 1975, one of a series of specific bodies within the museum profession.
The museum in the twentieth century
Samuel J.M.M. Alberti
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book suggests the parallels between the emphasis on evolutionary zoology in the Manchester Museum and the development of neo-Darwinism in biology. Throughout their 'lives', museum objects were attributed varied meanings and values as collectors, curators and audiences encountered them in very different ways. Objects did not act in their own right, but rather material culture was acted upon and was a conduit for human intention. In tracing the meanings and processes the principal intention of the book is to understand the construction and development of disciplines and the boundaries between them. The political history of UK museums in the twentieth century promises to be fascinating. A twentieth-century history would provide a sorely-needed historical context for the post-colonial turn in museology, filling the gap between imperial sources and contemporary approaches.
Collecting networks and the museum
Samuel J.M.M. Alberti
The Manchester Museum was based on the collections of the Manchester Natural History Society (MNHS). This chapter focuses on the networks that propelled specimens to the Museum, the politics of acquisition and the meanings of objects. For three decades from the mid-1890s, the Manchester Museum was at the quantitative peak of growth by donation, which reflected natural history museum acquisition in Europe and North America generally. The cultural economy of donation encompassed both nature and culture. The geographical and administrative peak of the British Empire was in the early twentieth century, which was reflected in the quantity and provenances of objects in British collections. The foundation stones of the Manchester Museum were laid as Gladstone's government hurled the nation into the 'scramble for Africa'. Many historical studies accordingly focus on the early colonial activity, and much of the literature is concerned with the nineteenth century.
Magdalena Figueredo and Fabiana Larrobla
Between 1975 and 1979, thirty-one unidentified bodies bearing marks of torture appeared at various locations along Uruguays coastline. These bodies were material proof of the death flights implemented in neighbouring Argentina after the military coup. In Uruguay, in a general context of political crisis, the appearance of these anonymous cadavers first generated local terror and was then rapidly transformed into a traumatic event at the national level. This article focuses on the various reports established by Uruguayan police and mortuary services. It aims to show how,the administrative and funeral treatments given at that time to the dead bodies, buried anonymously (under the NN label) in local cemeteries, make visible some of the multiple complicities between the Uruguayan and Argentinean dictatorships in the broader framework of the Condor Plan. The repressive strategy implemented in Argentina through torture and forced disappearance was indeed echoed by the bureaucratic repressive strategy implemented in Uruguay through incomplete and false reports, aiming to make the NN disappear once again.
Jose Manuel Varas Insunza
This article describes the operational practices of the city morgue in Santiago, Chile and their effects on the family members who come to claim the bodies of their loved ones. It explores the impact of the body‘s passage through the morgue on the observance of rituals surrounding death and mourning. An underlying conflict can be identified between the states partial appropriation of and interference with the body and intrinsic needs associated with the performance of funeral rites in accordance with cultural and religious precepts.
María José Sarrabayrouse Oliveira
The military coup of March 1976 in Argentina ruptured the prevailing institutional order, with the greater part of its repressive strategy built on clandestine practices and tactics (death, torture and disappearance) that sowed fear across large swathes of Argentine society. Simultaneously, the terrorist state established a parallel, de facto legal order through which it endeavoured to legitimise its actions. Among other social forces, the judicial branch played a pivotal role in this project of legitimisation. While conscious of the fact that many of those inside the justice system were also targets of oppression, I would like to argue that the dictatorship‘s approach was not to establish a new judicial authority but, rather, to build upon the existing institutional structure, remodelling it to suit its own interests and objectives. Based on an analysis of the criminal and administrative proceedings that together were known as the Case of the judicial morgue, this article aims to examine the ways in which the bodies of the detained-disappeared that entered the morgue during the dictatorship were handled, as well as the rationales and practices of the doctors and other employees who played a part in this process. Finally, it aims to reflect upon the traces left by judicial and administrative bureaucratic structures in relation to the crimes committed by the dictatorship, and on the legal strategies adopted by lawyers and the families of the victims.
Marco Aurelio Guimarães, Raffaela Arrabaça Francisco, Sergio Britto Garcia, Martin Evison, Maria Eliana Castro Pinheiro, Iara Xavier Pereira, Diva Santana and Julie Alvina Guss Patrício
Truth commissions are widely recognised tools used in negotiation following political repression. Their work may be underpinned by formal scientific investigation of human remains. This paper presents an analysis of the role of forensic investigations in the transition to democracy following the Brazilian military governments of 1964–85. It considers practices during the dictatorship and in the period following, making reference to analyses of truth commission work in jurisdictions other than Brazil, including those in which the investigation of clandestine burials has taken place. Attempts to conceal the fate of victims during the dictatorship, and the attempts of democratic governments to investigate them are described. Despite various initiatives since the end of the military government, many victims remain unidentified. In Brazil, as elsewhere, forensic investigations are susceptible to political and social influences, leading to a situation in which relatives struggle to obtain meaningful restitution and have little trust in the transitional justice process.
This article presents an account of the involvement of forensic anthropology in the investigation of human rights abuses in the modern era, and the difficulties it faces with respect to lack of adequate funding, volatile settings, the presence of unexploded ordnance, corruption in governmental agencies and a lack of good will, absence of support for NGOs and the curtailment of formal judicial proceedings to effect transitional justice. Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Spain, Mexico and the Northern Triangle are provided as regional examples of the problems encountered when attempting to conduct forensic anthropological investigations to locate mass graves, retrieve victims and obtain proper identifications. Interventions by various organisations are highlighted to illustrate their assistance to forensic and non-forensic individuals through technical support, training and mentoring in the areas of crime-scene management and identification techniques. Interventions in mass-grave processing when state agencies have failed, the importance of DNA banks and information from family members and witnesses are also presented.