YLM Introduction

This is a project that, we hope, will inspire both Pagans and non-Pagans who support the work of HAD.

We are looking to build up a database of British museums that hold the ancestors and their bodily evidence, in particular those of ancient British provenance.  Refer to HAD’s Statement of Intention for a definitive clarification of HAD’s remit and principal focus.

The purpose of the database is to:

  • build a primary resource for academic and general heritage research;
  • engender debate, based on contemporary Pagan ethics, about future strategies for the respectful treatment of the ancestors;
  • identify opportunities within museums where consultation on the storage, display, inclusion in public programmes or reburial of the ancestors can be prioritised;
  • promote dialogue between museums and local communities.

Questionnaires inviting museums to be involved have been sent out to hundreds of museums in Britain.  Because we don’t have the manpower at HAD to do follow up each one, and because we feel the importance of local landscape and community, we are asking individuals to find their own local museum(s) in the database here, let us know that they would like to be a part of the survey, and we’ll send an introductory letter paving the way for them to follow up on the questionnaire.

What we’d like to have is the following for each museum whose collection falls within our remit:

  • name and location of the museum;
  • who the museum is funded by, ie. local authority, university, heritage trust or other;
  • the number of ancestors in its collection, and how many of those are of ancient British provenance, pre-Christian or in other way Pagan;
  • how many of these ancestors are well documented, with clear context of date and place of exhumation?
  • for ancestors in store, is there;
    • a history of use?
    • potential for use, in display, education or scientific analysis?
  • does the museum have a disposal policy, and is it including the ancestors with negligible potential in its discussions about disposal?
  • what sources of information about these ancestors are in the public domain and where? (Note: the DCMS Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums states that museums have a responsibility to make this information available.);
  • are any of these ancestors currently on display and in what context? What is your opinion, and that of the local community, of this display?
  • does the museum hold any iconic ancestors, ie. complete skeletons with a well documented story, and are these on display?

How to go about this:

  • In the first place, let us know what you intend to do (contact us), giving us contact information for the museum if you have it. If someone else is working on that museum, or we have particular contacts or are already in negotiation with the museum, we can let you know;
  • HAD will get in touch with the museum, finding the appropriate person for you to talk to, let them know that you will be in touch, so giving you an easier way in;
  • With our introduction, you can then talk with the relevant people at the museum, exploring as much as you can, and send us a report for the website.

Note : The government’s Scoping Survey gives an idea of whether or not your local museum does hold ancestors, but that survey is now in part out of date and was not entirely comprehensive at the time of its compilation.