Katie Stringer Clary, Public History Instructor

Proposal Type


  • Seeking Additional Presenters
  • Seeking General Feedback and Interest
Related Topics
  • Civic Engagement
  • Material Culture
  • Memory
  • Museums/Exhibits

This roundtable explores the ethics, public reactions, and responsibilities of pubic historians in the display and exhibition of human remains. Human remains have been a part of museum exhibitions since the first museums opened in various forms; from the case of Sarah Baartman and nineteenth century freak shows, to modern displays of mummies and medical specimen displays, the human body has often been a source of intrigue and education. Examples of questions include: How do people react to these images today in museums or other exhibitions?  What are the ethical responsibilities of professionals in the field? How can, or even should, we go beyond NAGPRA to protect, respect, or repatriate remains that are not Native American?


I have another potential panelist from Cambridge University who also works on this topic and brings and interesting international perspective.  I’d be happy to include any other panelists who have an interest in this topic of human remains, death, NAGPRA, archaeology, public reactions or more.

I am also interested in ideas for making sure this is something NCPH audiences will find helpful.  As a museum professional and university instructor, I can see the implications for exhibit designers or curators, and also the ability to create case studies and ethical questions for university instructors.  My current research includes figuring out public perceptions and ideals, so I hope to have more information about that soon, and also to elicit feedback from other professionals on their experiences.

If you have a direct offer of assistance, sensitive criticism, or wish to pass along someone’s contact information confidentially, please get in contact directly: Katie Stringer Clary, [email protected]

If you have general ideas or feedback to share, please feel free to use the comments feature below.

All feedback and offers of assistance should be submitted by July 2, 2017.


  1. Jessica Knapp says:

    Hi Katie,
    This is an incredible conversation to have with NCPH audiences. While only a certain group of public historians will have the opportunity to grapple with these questions in their institutions, I think this roundtable will draw a significant audience. I would attend!

    You might consider inviting a speaker with the perspective/POV from a community who has had to witness an ancestor on display, and perhaps the experience of working with an institution to repatriate those remains back to their community. I think this would provide a perspective that is often left out of this conversation.

  2. Modupe Labode says:

    Hi Katie! I agree that this would be very interesting to the NCPH audience. Although I have not visited the Mattatuck Museum in CT, I am aware that in the early 2000s, the museum, responding to community pressure, removed the skeleton of Fortune, an enslaved man whose remains had been on exhibition at the museum, and embarked on a long process of interpreting slavery in CT. You can learn more here: http://www.fortunestory.org/fortune/ In 2013, Fortune was buried I understand that Dr. P. Gabrielle Foreman (at University of Delaware) is writing a history of Fortune.

    Good luck!

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