Date of Defense

Summer 7-4-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Art in Art and Design (MAAD)


School of Art and Design


Museum Studies

Committee Chair

Dr. Susan Kirkpatrick Smith

Committee Member

Dr. Flora Anthony

Committee Member

Dr. Phillip Kiernan


Human remains are a unique type of archaeological artifact because of the emotional and cultural ties to living descendants that can still affect the living today. Museums have acquired sets of human remains over the decades by various means like purchases, donations, and grave robbing. The ethical and legal process of displaying and having ownership of human remains has been questioned in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom because both have extensive human remains collections from multiple different cultures. While there are human remains in institutions other than museums that have to abide by the same laws, this thesis will focus on human remains in museums. The history of how human remain collections came to be has shaped how museums handle repatriation or possession of the remains. The laws and policies in the US and UK have changed over the decades to reflect a new attitude of how museums have begun to be more ethically acceptable.