The Morton Cranial Collection and Legacies of Scientific Racism in Museums

Pressures in and outside the academy are forcing museums to grapple ever more deeply with the legacies of scientific racism embedded and embodied in their anthropological collections. The removal of the nineteenth century Samuel George Morton collection of hundreds of human skulls from display in a classroom at the University of Pennsylvania in summer 2020 following student protest is a provocative metaphor for these changes. In this “Participant Observations” series, the History of Anthropology Review has invited scholars to respond to the shifting fate of this and other physical anthropology collections, opening critical discussion of other anti-racist reckonings and aspects of decolonization in museums, ethical concerns about human remains collections, and the intertwined histories of racial science, medicine, and anthropology.

May 2021
Enclosures and Extraction: MOVE and the Penn Museum
Deborah Thomas
On Demarcation
Jon Marks
April 2021
Spiritual Inequality
CD Green
Enslaved Remains, Scientific Racism, and the Work of Counter-History (Part Two)
Ricardo Roque
Enslaved Remains, Scientific Racism, and the Work of Counter-History (Part One)
Ricardo Roque
The Penn & Slavery Project: On Visualizing The Afterlives of Slavery at Penn
VanJessica Gladney
March 2021
Death, Dignity, and Descendants
Courtney Thompson
Bring the Old People Home
Paul Turnbull
A Reckoning Renewed: Museums and the Legacy of Scientific Racism Today
Samuel J. Redman
Medicine, Racism, and the Legacies of the Morton Skull Collection
Christopher D.E. Willoughby
February 2021
Ignoble Trophies: The Samuel G. Morton Collection, Repatriation, and Redress for the 21st Century
Ann Kakaliouras
Editor’s Introduction: The Morton Cranial Collection and Legacies of Scientific Racism in Museums
Paul Wolff Mitchell
Affective Responses to Normalized Violence in Museums
Stephanie Mach
Morton, the Maya and Me: Reflections from a Yucatec Maya Graduate Student
Francisco Diaz
Colonizing the Indigenous Dead
Margaret M. Bruchac