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.

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