Adopted by the board of trustees on January 25, 2017.
This policy employs the standard of informed consent as the minimal ethical standard acceptable to us for the curation of human remains in this era. Informed consent is the standard for all contemporary research practice when human subjects and human remains are involved. Applying this standard retroactively allows stakeholders whose predecessors were not agents in the disposition of their remains (or those of their ancestors) to now have input and appropriate agency in decisions about the remains of their ancestors.
This policy, and the discussion about adopting it, recognizes the contributions of those earlier generations of curators and archaeologists who worked with high ideals and for the good of humanity under the ethical standards of their day. The policy reflects an evolving understanding of best practice for our institution: one that views all people as having the right to determine what happens to the remains of their ancestors.
Policy on the Curation of Human Remains
The San Diego Museum of Man will only accession and/or curate human remains when express written permission is given to do so by the deceased individual, their next of kin, or an authorized designee of the descendant community, and when those remains can be used to tell appropriate and compelling stories in support of the Museum’s interpretive goals. The Museum may curate human remains without the express written permission of the descendant community, in cases where that community can be shown to broadly support similar curatorial activity for human remains.
Read our full Collections Management Policy, which includes our policy on the curation of human remains in full beginning on page 7.