Covering the mummies

Asru, coveredLast week, the unwrapped mummy of Asru, and the partially wrapped mummy of Khary, and the loaned child mummy from Stonyhurst College, were covered. The covering was carried out in order that the human remains be treated with respect and to keep the bodies on display in line with the Manchester Museum Human Remains policy (http://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/reportspolicies/fileuploadmax10mb,120796,en.pdf). The covering of the mummies coincides with the opening of the year-long exhibition of Lindow Man: A Bog Body Mystery (http://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/ourpractice/lindowman/), where the Museum has interpreted the bog body through the opinions of seven individuals involved with his discovery and analysis.

All decisions relating to human remains at the Museum are made by the Human Remains Panel, and not by individual curators.

 

 

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172 Comments

Filed under Egyptian mummies

172 responses to “Covering the mummies

  1. Tim Finch

    Do those who dream up such policies even consider who pays their wages? Totally misguided.

    How are the next generation going to be inspired and interested in in Egyptology (and history in general), if the items that exicte them are hidden from view?

    Let’s hope it is a current fad and will pass, so the mummys’ can again achieve immortality.

  2. Reg Grant

    Is the covering up really in line with the human remains policy? Or is it because they are in such bad condition that it is embarassing to have them uncovered?
    And if they are to be covered on display, how about move them to storage or, you know, repatriate them?

  3. John Wilson

    The necessity to cover these remains to treat them with respect is according to which opinion? Academics, no. Scientists, no. The General Public, no; then whom? If none of these then is a minority opinion being forced on the majority? Apparently so, and possibly in a misinformed and misguided way?

  4. Daniel Sellers

    I am at a loss to comprehend the lack of resistance to the implementation of this “policy”.

    “In order that the remains be treated with respect”? If this policy really is borne out of “respect”, send the remains back to where they were originally buried and reinterr them!

    To hide away a historical and scientific treasure for reasons of sensibility (as if anyone would be offended by such a wonder) is laughably 18th centure. It is certainly not respectful!

    Shame on the hand-wringing author of the policy. And on the brow-beetled museum for putting it into practice.

    I suggest the residents of Manchester contact their local MP and councillors.

  5. Bob Partridge

    Re covering of the mummies:

    I am almost at a loss for words here on the decision to completley cover the mummies in the Manchester Museum.

    The mummies are one of the main attractions of the museum and today (Friday) it was clear that many of the visitors were less than impressed with this action.

    What to my mind, beggars belief is how the museum can cover the mummies in line with its policy on Human Remains, whilst in the very same building the UNCOVERED human remains of Lindow Man are the subject of a much publicised year-long exhibition aimed at educatiing and enlightening the public.

    This is just rediculous.

    I accept that the display of human remains needs to be treated sensitively and was under the impression that a year long consultation with the public was being undertakent o discuss the future display of the museum and that would include the display of the mummies.

    If this covering is aimed at provoking a response from the public, then I am sure it will, but will the response be heeded?

    At a very recent consultation meeting the subject of the display of mummies was covered, but there was no mention of covering them up NOW.

    If the UNIVERSITY museum is to continue ts policy of education and inorming visitors, then covering up the mummies is not achieveing this end, and is making the museum a subject of ridicule

    Bob Partridge
    Editor “Ancient Egypt” magazine

  6. Albert Prince

    Cover up mummies and human remains ? What utter rubbish. This nonsense has nothing to do with respect but does reflect of the calibre of some of the people finding employment in museums at the present time.

    The London Museums which had priceless collections have been dumbed down and Disneyfied in the same manner.

    Time to get rid of Museologists (A very soft option degree)
    The problem is that those proposing these ridiculous policies make judgement based on their own limited abilities and assume that the majority of the public ar as thick as themselves.

    It is necessary to take a stand against this nonesense and demand the resignation of those responsible.

    Albert Prince BSc (Hons), MCMI,FIDagE, FGS

  7. Jeremy Hale

    It’s an interesting approach and one that is sure causing plenty of discussion. It’s not as if all the mummies have been covered up, when I visited early last week there were at least 4 or 5 other mummies left as they were. As far as I am aware this isn’t the first time a museum has covered up mummies to see what the response was. Wasn’t something similar tried in London a few years ago? Personally I think the museum should be applauded in being experimental.

  8. I am probably the only anthropologist ever to have studied a large sample of museum visitors’ opinions about the exhibition of Egyptian mummies (see Chapter 5 in my book “The Mummy’s Curse: Mummymania in the English-speaking World”, Routledge 2006). It concerns me that very little research has been done on this subject, worries me that museum visitors are largely excluded from museum decision-making about human remains exhibition, and surprises me that my published work – having been available now for several years – has apparently not been consulted by museum curators.

    My 1995-96 research in Australian, American and British museums, including The Manchester Museum, reveals several trends. Firstly, that the majority of visitors are not troubled by the exhibition of human remains, although mummy fragments such as heads and hands are often seen as distasteful. Secondly, that a surprising proportion – possibly a majority – of visitors do not actually believe that every single mummy they see on display is authentic, because their “models” for mummies are the exaggerated, filthy, ugly, ragged monsters of horror films that real mummies tend not to resemble. Thirdly, the minority of people who object to the exhibition of mummies, who claim to do so for ethical reasons, are in fact motivated by physical revulsion based upon the Western death taboo and/or upon association of real mummies with their fictional counterparts – characters who, I argue (2006), have come to symbolise concepts of pollution in contemporary Western culture. That is, real mummies are unfairly being made to pay for our demonisation of mummy characters in the world of film and fiction.

    In short, there is very little objection to the exhibition of mummies, and of the objectors, most appear to have selfish rather than genuinely altruistic motivations. Curators’ decisions about the exhibition of mummies and other human remains should take research like this into account, or carry out similar research in order to base policy upon a sound understanding of what museum visitors actually want. I should add that the exhibition of Egyptian mummies has by now become a time-honoured Western tradition which, despite its politically or ethically questionable origins, has evolved into an arguably positive thing: people like me effectively treat museums as sites of pilgrimage, shrines we visit in order to meet the ancient Egyptians whom we love and revere. Taking them away from us denies us our only chance to commune with them, and it is this communion which humanises mummies more than hiding them away can ever do. The demonisation of mummies in popular culture can only be countered by amuseums, if they are brave enough to show visitors what real mummies look like. If not, then the Western vision of mummies as monsters will flourish unabated.

    Dr Jasmine Day
    Cultural Anthropologist (PhD, University of Western Australia)
    Secretary, The Ancient Egypt Society of Western Australia

  9. While I do not agree with the covering of the mummies faces, I think Manchester are responding to the steps being taken in the rest of the world including Egypt when it comes to the display of human remains.

    They has been much talk here in Egypt recently of removing the royal mummies from display in the Cairo museum out of respect for the dead, as president Sadat did in the 1970′s.

    I think Mnchester have taken a bold step.

    Nigel

  10. Marshall Hindley

    One must ask the question “Why do members of the General Public wish to gawk at the uncovered remains of people who lived x thousands of years ago?”

    Is it because they are attracted by the macabre?

    Is it because the bodies are naked – and the sight of naked
    bodies, even centuries old, arouses a degree of sexual excitement in some viewers?

    Is it just curiosity, wondering what people whose bodies have been prerserved looklike after thousands of years?

    I feel that the answer to the popularity of the mummies on display in any Museum lies somewhere in those questions.

    The decorous covering of the bodies of the Pharoahs in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo does not detract from the popularity of the exhibit, nor does the covering of the bodies prevent the scientific examination of the remains when necessary.

    In general I would support the action of the person(s) responsible, although I agree with prevous responders that, if a consultation process is in progress, as it would seem to be, then to await the outcome of that process would have been more judicious.

    Marshall Hindley
    Member, Ancient Egypt Society of Western Australia

  11. John Billman

    I must say this is disappointing and damaging to the excellent reputation in this field built up over many years at Manchester.

    I believe the key point here is individual choice. A few months ago in Vietnam I went to the War Museum, in many ways it was not a wholly comfortable experience , but it was very informative about a piece of fairly recent history, censoring that experience would have left me the poorer and let down those who suffered in that conflict.

    The mummies at Manchester have taught us much about conditions in the Ancient World and provided evidence that as individuals we can access of disease, physical condition, life, death and of course mummification techniques. The ability to view the whole body can be key to that experience. Occasionally for some individuals that may not be comfortable viewing, but who should choose if that is accessible or not to the general public? What right does the museum have to censor this?

    The museum should respect individual choice and remove these coverings. There (may) just be a case for erecting warning notices, but certainly not a case for diluting the visitor experience.

    John Billman

  12. Julia Beaumont

    I was inspired many years ago to (eventually) become involved in archaeology and paleaopathology by the mummies and an earlier exhibition of Lindow man while studying an unrelated subject in Manchester.

    Last week I visited a London museum where collected bones and body parts are on display, and was able to point out a feature in one of the displays that had not been noticed and may add to the knowledge about the collection: if these body parts had been covered up, or not displayed, that would not have been possible.

    By all means give the public a choice within the museum layout about whether they see the human remains or avoid them, but I feel that the only way to advance knowledge is to allow access to these collections for those who want to see them. There is nothing voyeuristic: merely a curiosity which is better satisfied with the real article rather than cartoon-filled imaginings.

  13. Muriel O'Shea

    To cover or not to cover – if the argument is based around “respect” just what does this mean? EXACTLY how are we dis-respecting the mummies currently?
    In whose opinion? I suspect this says more about the inner and personal sensitivities of those making the policy than about the behaviour and attitudes of Museum visitors – which I would suggest from my own personal observation displays curiosity, wonder and awe – with only the odd schoolboy titter, easily avoided by common sense displaying.

    If ancient mummies could be consulted, they would doubtless consider that the afterlife rituals had achieved their aim – names and history still being spoken into eternity!

    How does the poilicy also chime with the current display of Lindow Man? He can be displayed but could not apparently appear on publicity leaflets, leading to the use of the totally irrelevant Care Bear image.

    How about showing some “respect” for those who endowed the Museum with large amounts of funding or fruits of excavations? What would THEY think of the cover-up policy? Would they think the Museum is fulfilling its obligations in respect of educating, inspiring and delighting in the best ways possible, generations of visitors and students?

    I fear that the cover-up policy and the incomprehensible decision to display irrelevant and distracting items (bought on e-Bay by an artist) among priceless treasures of ancient life are symptoms of some very muddled thinking which is destined to undermine the credibility of the superb collections.

  14. J. Peter Phillips

    I attended the public consultation meeting on 19th April and was “secretary” for the group who discussed the human remains policy. The group was totally unanimous in its opinion that the mummies should be retained by the museum and continue to be displayed in a sensitive manner. We accepted that there had been a small number of comments from members of the general public who had been disturbed by seeing human remains but said that this could be easy overcome by displaying a warning notice at the entrance to the area concerned. I understand that this has been done.

    The fundamental purposes of a University are to encourage learning and research and to disseminate knowledge. By covering up the mummies, the Museum, which is part of the University of Manchester, is discouraging learning about the ways in which an ancient civilisation dealt with its dead, and is bolstering ignorant prejudice.

    The Museum, which has an Egyptology collection of world-class importance, is being made a laughing-stock throughout the academic world and is upsetting large numbers of visitors who come to the museum to see that collection.

  15. Katharine Bradbury

    I am surprised the Manchester University Museum has adopted a policy of covering mummies. This is especially perplexing given the inconsistencies between the display of some Ancient Egyptian remains and that of the Lindow man.

    Other respondents have commented on the lack of public consultation regarding this policy – what is the evidence that the previous displays were perceived to be disrespectful or causing offense? How will this ‘experiment’ be judged to have succeeded or failed?

    As custodian of these precious human remains, the museum has a duty to protect them for future generations while also facilitating research and making them accessible for visitors to view. One way of ensuring their future preservation is by educating the public and in my opinion the prudish practice of covering them seems to contravene this aim.

    My interest in Ancient Egypt was stimulated by seeing mummies on display in the British Museum as a child and I am now pursuing my interest by studying for the distance learning certificate in Egyptology at Manchester University. This topic has generated much comment on our discussion boards, the majority not in favour of the covering of mummies.

  16. Birgit Schoer

    An article and video on the BBC website on 15.02.08 (still available in the archives, entitled “Doubt Over Museum Displays) announced that managers at Manchester Museum were considering moves to cover up the Egyptian mummies that have always been among the centre pieces of their historical Egyptian collection. At the time, a spokesperson was quoted as saying “we are starting a public consultation to find out what people think about the display of human remains … ”
    The museum’s own website suggests that these moves may have been partly inspired by pressure exerted by an organisation called “Honouring the Dead” (HAD) which had played an instrumental role at a conference on ancient BRITISH human remains organised by Manchester Museum in Nov 2006. This organisation represents British Pagans. Some of the comments submitted above indicate that the views of many of the consultees (ie ordinary members of the public) may have been ignored, creating the impression that British Pagans may have been able to exert a disproportionate influence on the fate of a group of well-cared for ancient Egyptian Mummies, thereby elevating themselves spokespersons for ALL human remains in museum collections. In my opinion, this state of affairs is unacceptable, and cannot be justified on grounds of “sensitivity” etc. This is surely not much better in principle than some of the imperious attitudes displayed on non-European cultures in the past.

    Most of the comments left by others above suggest that HAD are unlikely to represent the views of the majority of museum visitors. So if the management of this museum wants to be seen to be responsive to public opinion, perhaps the time has come to reconsider this decision. Otherwise it may appear, as has been pointed out above, that this decision was taken primarily for the benefit of the peace of mind of museum professionals.

    We should also remember that the Egyptians – themselves are displaying mummies in their own museums, and recognise the value and attraaction of these displays to the visitors. Furthermore, existing displays in museums around the world demonstrate that mummies can be displayed sensitively – their display does NOT automatically indicate a lack of respect for their culture of origin.

    In my opinion, the policy of covering up the mummies is a regressive and misguided step, which does not enhance our respect or understanding of the culture concerned, but risks alienating those the museums should attract, namely the visiting public who wish to learn about an ancient culture and have their horizons widened by the experience.

  17. I do have some sympathies with the uncover the mummy camp but feel that on balance Manchester is doing the right thing in covering.

    Firstly, although yes some of the public do like to see mummies a lot are simply excited by the macabre. If you watch children looking at mummies you will get comments like ‘Come and see this, its so sick/gross’. While not all are turned on by this, unfortunately many are.

    Secondly, there are members of the public who are offended by displays of human remains. At Egypt Centre we even had a complaint from someone who was offended by a picture of a skeleton.

    Thirdly, the museum has to take into account not simply the wishes of the public but also the deceased people. I don’t think they would want to go on display uncovered.

    Fourthly its sometimes stated that Egyptologists only became Egyptologists by seeing mummies. I think museums now are much more able to excite the interest of children without the display of the dead.

    There are also a number of errounous comments that some have made that may not be entirely central to the issue. For example, yes the museum may have a inconsistent approach to display of human remains, but ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’. Also, yes, perhaps the objects should all be reburied, but this is a separate issue for discussion.

    So, on balance I say well done Manchester for covering the mummies. I think you are doing the right thing.

    Carolyn Graves-Brown

    Egypt Centre

  18. Since Egypt became a “must” for people in Europe, when Napoleon took his famous expedition there, mummies “invaded” peoples houses long before they started to be museum property. I agree that it was moved by morbid curiosity, thus they had those famous unwrapping dinner parties. But that made people like Thomas Pettigrew start to be more scientifically moved towards what rested below those bandages. Others followed, museums started to acquire mummies and displaying them all over the 19th century and everyone went to see them. Besides the fortune museums make on exhibitions containing mummies (and that should interest any Museum Director), biomedical projects are being carried out for about a century now, on mummies preserved at museum collections. This contributed to scientific and historical knowledge and even though children have funny comments about them, when they look at them, they like mummies and skeletons. Many are motivated by those specimens to study further. And I believe museums should be proactive in the calling of more public into their rooms; the public that is usually attracted to shopping malls, football matches and pubs, the people, should another alternative which is culture.

  19. Hilary Forrest

    Many of the earlier messages have covered the important points. Manchester Museum has one of the best collections outside London which was donated and endowed for educational and scientific reasons. Generations of schoolchldren have been inspired by their visits of which the highlight has always been the mummies. Seeing the real ancient Egyptians in person brings the whole culture and history of ancient Egypt to life.This can lay the foundation for lifelong interest and study as it did in my own case. When I was a child living near London my parents would give us a choice of visit. Mine was always the British Museum and my first beeline was to the mummy room. I used to make for “Ginger”first and greet him like an old friend. Then it was the rest of the mummy collection. At that early age it was the people not the cultural or artsistic material which inspired me. Now, many decades on, I am still fascinated and researching into Egyptian topics. I hope that this politically correct fashion passes soon .

  20. Jane Curbishley

    I find it incomprehensible that the mummies should have been covered prior to any final opinion having been reached as a result of the public consultation exercise. Personally I see little point in exhibiting a wrapped mummy – the sarcophagus with the mummy interred within makes for far more interesting study in many cases. Having visited the mummy room at the Cairo Museum I think it is a great shame that Manchester has come over coy about displaying the unwrapped mummies. The queue in Cairo is usually very long indeed and the atmosphere inside the room where the mummies are housed is hushed and almost reverent. I fail to see how this shows any lack of respect. It is truly fascinating to view the body itself and does literally make the person come alive to you; you do see them as a “real” person, not merely a name from history. I found the experience quite moving and would be sad if others were unable to share this because someone in Manchester (obviously not a scientist or an Egyptologist) has decided that they may be offensive to a small minority of the public. The mummies should be housed separately with a warning notice if they are afraid of public opinion. No-one has to view an unwrapped mummy if they feel they will be offended.

    I do hope that Manchester takes full cognisance of the views of the public before burning its bridges as I feel sure that there will be overwhelming support for leaving the mummies unwrapped.

  21. oflynnsa

    Hi,

    I just want to wholeheartedly agree with the majority of these comments which are against the covering of the mummies. I cannot believe that one of the most important mummy collections is going to be hidden from the view of the General Public without any kind of choice being involved. Equally, I do empathise and understand that some members of the Public might find viewing the remains upsetting. If the concern is that people will be upset by the remains then surely it should be down to the individual to decide – the solution would seem to be to me to display the mummies in a glass display case – but with a soft cover which can be lifted by the viewer if desired – you often see this kind of display with artefacts which can be damaged by light. Surely it is better to compromise and allow those who wish to do the remains to do so, whilst allowing those who would prefer not to see them their opportunity to go roudn the galleries as well. For the most part the remains would therefore be covered but without denying the public and professionals their right to view.

  22. Terri Natale

    I have never heard of such a ridiculous policy . . . it seems like misguided so-called political correctness . . .

    It is important to view the mummies they are part of the legacy we have of ancient Egypt. They invite people to study further . . . to learn about human remains, about the rituals of death and mummification . . . yes, of course, the mummies should be treated with respect . . .but that does not mean they should not be displayed . .. they need to be on display . . .

  23. Clandestino

    I never was in Manchester yet…
    Two or three years before, I wanted to fly to Egypt for drawing the face of Ramesses II. One of my teachers wanted to forbid me these action, she said, it’s a rude voyeurism… I don’t understood her at the first moment. After spending long days in the Cairo mummy room, watching the people’s attitude against dead bodies and spirits – I totally agree with the opinion. I saw the mummy of Asru only on a picture – i don’t kno if he’s displayed nude or with the body covered. I think, no scholar will see his/her own beloweds in such as poor situation.

    I read and saw the stupid reactions of people about watching the royal mummies in Cairo, they often had doing jokes about the deceased… I saw children entering into the room, knocking on the glass cases and running up and down…

    And it’s not only in Cairo…
    I think, you can show the face of the deceased, when it’s still in good state of preservation. But not the nude corpse, never… You can show their hands, tehy’re sometimes amazing…

    Just remember, it’s not only this case, it was before in Egypt too, when the mummy room was closed. Then they told the same cause for re-opening – “it’s the most exclusive attraction of the museum”…

    I also work – sometimes – with skulls and bones – being a graphician and excavation technician – and now i had a possibility for drawing a mummified head. It was so fragile and gaves me more impressions and still other spiritual contact, like a simple human skull. When i think about, i never will see myself, my body, lying in a glass case, and everybody (not only scholars, not only doctors – but people too, they cannot have any respect against the deceased) will watch me like a “big attraction” or a monkey in the animal garden. The egyptians believed in eternal life – but i cannot believe that they imagined the eternity like this. Some of the US states respected the wishes of the Indians and gave back the bodies and bones of their ancestors… I think, Egypt will never do it, so, be lucky abut having a mummy, respect their humankind, and cover their body, please… “Modern people” had got away all of their values, treasures and quiety, now it’s the time for let them to take a rest…

    Personally after finishing with my royal model – i never want to see him lying in a stupid vitrine.

  24. George Stilwell

    Seems a simple thing to me. Just clothe the mummies as you would your mom or dad.
    Face, arms, hands, even feet would show, but the rest would be covered nicely.

    Obviously professionals who have a specific need to see the whole body should be given private access. We even let our Doctors do this to living people. But we don’t put naked people on display.

    Mummies are people too. Let’s treat them as such.

    George Stilwell

  25. Eileen Goulding

    I am dismayed to hear about the mummies being covered – why not just put them away in a storeroom out of site or re-bury them if no-one is allowed to see them ? Seeing mummies in museums has sparked interest in Egyptology for generations and they remain the central focus of interest for many people. They give everything else from Egypt greater meaning and relevance . The point about “respect” is misplaced – any time I’ve been in the presence of mummies the atmosphere has been one of total respect and awe.

  26. Dee

    The idea of ‘respect’ is a red herring because we all know that if anyone famous (celebrity or academic) visits the collection they will be allowed a ‘special peek’ at anything they want – indeed, things like mummies will be paraded before them.

    There’s nothing sinister about wanting to see a mummy – for me it brings a real connection with the past to look at an ancient Egyptian’s face. Just like Catholics can with popes in St Peter’s or Chinese people can with the corpse of their beloved Mao.

    I too would like to know whose sensibilities are being offended by the display of human remains. By all means put the mummy displays in an area that is curtained off so that visitors have the choice of whether to look or not.

    Slaking the thirst for knowledge about the past should remain paramount in any public display.

  27. Glenn Meyer

    This is terrible. People all over the world flock to see how mummies were preserved, and yet the Manchester Museum decides that displaying mummies is unacceptable. The results of mummification, good and bad, should be on display for the education and interest of the public. Frankly, if my tax dollars were paying for the Manchester Museum, I’d be banging at their door asking for my money back!

    Please note that my opinion is my own, and in no way an expression of the official opinion of any organization.

    Sincerely,

    Glenn Meyer
    Vice President, Northern California chapter
    American Research Center in Egypt

  28. Judith Bond

    The mummies are being displayed for both curiosity and scientific reasons. Having them “covered” defeats the purpose of visiting them. If this is a purely Personal decision by a non-scientist/non-Egyptologist, perhaps the Museum needs to find another venue for that person to care for and leave the mummies alone. Or, send the mummies back to their country of origin, where they belong in the first place.

  29. Barry Burnett

    Had the museum merely stated that it intended to cover its mummy collection then undoubtedly there would have been much less response. It’s not until something has actually gone that you realise just what has been lost, and I applaud Manchester Museum for taking the brave step of actually showing us what would happen if this policy was implemented. Judging by the responses here, I am sure this action has improved feedback into the consultation process.
    The previous postings have covered all the pertinent points, so I just want to add my voice in the hope that common sense prevails over political correctness and that the consultation process highlights just how misguided this proposal is.

  30. CHRISTOPHER SHAUN

    Absolute rot and botheration!

  31. Gary Parks

    What I have to say echoes in part the comments of Mr. Stilwell, above.

    Over the years, I have given some thought to the issue of how to display mummies, although I am in no position of authority at any institution to make such decisions. Of course, the ancients did not intend for them to be displayed at all, save for the Greco-Roman Period custom of sometimes having mummies displayed vertically in special cases in homes, so that they could participate in family life, ritualistically.

    I believe mummies should be displayed. In cases where wrappings are intact, I feel there is no issue here. In the case of unwrapped mummies, here is my idea of a respectful compromise: Leave the mummies explosed, save for areas of the body which are considered proper to keep covered in public–genitalia and overall pelvic areas of both sexes, and the breast area on women. I believe this to be reasonably respectful of the wishes of those who spent much effort at the preservation of their remains to assure their place in eternity, while at the same time letting scholars and the public observe and learn from these personages, as this education is part of the ancients’ legacy to us. In addition, it follows modern sensibilities toward modesty.

    Scholars, when studying the mummies should of course, out of the eyes of the general public, be allowed access to all areas of the mummies for study, going through the proper permission channels with given museums, antiquities departments, etc.

    With regard to mummies which are dismembered, or grossly disfigured, like the mummy of Rameses VI, to cite a royal example, perhaps it is best to leave these for the eyes of scholars only, who obtain the proper study permission. I realize this might bring up the matter of the mummy of Seqenenre Tao, the battle or assassin-inflicted pharaoh who lies in the Royal Mummies Room in Cairo, and is covered except for his head, hands, and feet. In his case, I think the display is handled well, and such mummies would have to handled on a case-by-case basis, obviously subject to a bit of individual review and consensus by museum authorities.

  32. I have been mad about Egypt since I was about 5, and always took the opportunity to visit as many museums and exhibitions as I could. The mummies are a vital link to the past — I could look into the face of a man 4,000 years old, and see that, like myself, he was a person.
    Mummies give us so much information about the people and how they lived. I’ve always been thrilled to be able to view them, to come eye-to-eye with a mummy I’d read about.
    Perhaps the most appalling thing about covering the mummies in Manchester (besides depriving us of the honor of meeting them) is that the Museum justifies itself by saying that the mummies are now “respected.” Also, they are defeating the purpose of a museum — to provide knowledge and artifacts so that they may be viewed and studied.
    This seems to be some odd prudery on the museum’s part, by the way. It is a comfort to see the mummies lying so peacefully. And when we know their names, we can assure that they will live again.

  33. I think the museum has taken an ethical and courageous stance on this issue. Whilst I think that the final decision could and should have waited until the consultation period was complete, I personally feel the move is mostly positive.

    One thing I think that could have been done better would be leaving the face of dead visible. I think this would be a good balance between giving the dead the respect they deserve, whilst preserving a “link” with the public. Within Egypt this seems to be the way things are moving, albeit gradually.

    Because the BM has not covered it’s human remains does not make Manchester’s decision automatically wrong. Personally I hope that the BM will study the move that Manchester (and some Egyptian museums) have made and consider adopting a similar policy.

    I agree with George Stilwell that When we talk about “human remains” and mummies, we are talking about people. Let’s not be so quick to forget this, and what their wishes for the afterlife were. Modern research can further our knowledge of Ancient Egypt whilst barely having to touch their bodies, thanks to more sophisticated technology than the early Egyptologists had at their disposal, and so it is only fitting that our attitudes towards how we “interact” with remains overall also needs some rethinking. Museums can provide informative and in depth exhibits to educate the public about Ancient Egyptian beliefs and practises concerning burial, mummification and the afterlife, without having to turn the body of the deceased into a macabre spectacle.

    This is not the view of one who is overly distressed by seeing human remains. This is the view of one who believes, that in the 21st century, we have an opportunity to move the popular perception and interest in Ancient Egypt beyond the spectacle of the unwrapped mummy, and hopes that such an opportunity will not be wasted.

    I support Manchester Museum.

  34. Keeli and Adam Cadwell

    After reading about this I found myself asking “Are you serious?” This is an act of political correctness that, quite frankly, should be embarrassing for the Manchester Museum to even be associated with. It has every right to be debated, however, actions should have never been taken without consulting the general public. I think the comments displayed here pretty much sum up a popular consensus. A museum is a place to learn. How can this be properly facilitated when what is on display isn’t truly “on display.” These absurd policies have become the plight of all city museums. You need only look at Weston Park Museum in Sheffield to see what happens when you put people in charge that have degrees in irrelevant areas, as opposed to formal qualifications in pertinent fields such as archaeology, Egyptology, anthropology, etc. Anyone working in scientific fields that concern human remains are well aware of the dignity that should be afforded to these individuals, and I’m certain this extends to regular visitors of museums. One also has to consider the fact that covering these mummies for the sake of human dignity is applying a modern, 21st Century standard on people who lived thousands of years ago. Even the Victorians weren’t so abashed. I suppose giving an ancient Egyptian “dignity” would be for that individual to be known and recognized and never forgotten. In displaying these invaluable mummies, we are providing the individual what they wanted to achieve in death and educating the general public. Perhaps the best solution would be to display a disclaimer before you enter the gallery explaining that human remains are on display. Tsk, tsk

  35. Mark Walker, M.A. (Hons), P.G.C.E.

    I am surprised and actually quite angry to learn that several of the Manchester Museum’s mummies have been completely covered up. I almost hesitate to write any comment: if the display of these fascinating and valuable exhibits is under consultation, as we are told, why has action already been taken? Clearly, the museum staff consider that they know best and are not in the slightest interested in what other people have to say. If this is the case, beware. Museums need grants and should remember they have a function to serve the public and not themselves. Certainly, human remains should be displayed in a sensitive and respectful way. After all, when we look at a mummy we are looking at a real human being. However, we must be allowed to connect with real people from the past and an actual body, presented in an educational context to further our knowledge and understanding, is a valuable resource. Children may initially make some indelicate remark but, and I speak as an educationalist myself, mummies are viewed as remarkable exhibits and they excite and stimulate young minds far more than any piece of pottery or stone. This is your future, tax-paying and grant-funding generation that you are alienating. From the photographs i have seen, it seems to me that rather than showing respect to each ancient human being, the Manchester Museum has, in fact, actually reduced the mummy to the status of an object, to a mere sack-in-a-box. Why display them at all? If things don’t change, I urge Stonyhurst College to request the return of their mummy and I suggest they offer it for sale abroad where it may be appreciated. Even the modern Egyptians don’t cover the faces of their mummies! It is quite absurd. What can we learn from this? I suggest any applicants for curatorships of museums should be carefully vetted to ascertain with certainty that they actually care about and value the collection they are entrusted to maintain. If this curator doesn’t like mummies then go and work somewhere else! There are museums, like the Egypt Centre, where mummies are not exhibited. Go there! I shall not! Manchester Museum, until now, has offered interested enthusiasts and members of the general public every aspect of ancient Egyptian culture to study. I don’t agree with displaying ‘severed limbs’ which can be ghoulish, but we are discussing whole mummies here. Solutions? End this absurdity forthwith. But, as some contributors have already said, put up a notice, or re-exhibit, so that the visitor has a choice, and must make a conscious decision, to view the mummies. Or perhaps consider the method used by the late Dr Dominic Monserrat for his visiting exhibition”Ancient Egypt, Digging for Dreams”. Here, back in 2000, a mummy head (it was regrettable that a complete mummy was not available) was shown under a cloth. Visitors were invited to raise the cloth to view the mummy. There was an opportunity for reflection and a choice of whether to look at the face or not. Any, or all, of these ideas would be better.

  36. Kaman Law

    Like many others ancient Egypt enthusiasts, I was absolutely shocked when I heard that the Manchester Museum is proposing covering its mummy collections. I do not see revealing the mummies as a horrifying display but rather high in educational value. Through my four years experiences as a volunteer at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, California, I noticed that mummy is the one artifact that visitors always pay high attentions to. To be honest, in the 21st Century, mummies are no big shocker anymore due to the popular Hollywood movies such as “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Return”. Besides, the visitors do expect to catch a glimpse of the mysterious mummies when visit a museum that housed the ancient Egyptian collection.

    I could only imagine that the visitors of the Manchester Museum in the future will only be tremendously disappointed when they realized that they could have the opportunity to see the face of the mummies but were not able to due to some foolish policies. I hope that Professor Alan Gilbert and the Manchester Museum will take these comments seriously and reverse the plan.

  37. Chris Drew

    There are many people who are interested in Ancient Egpyt, but who cannot afford to travel to Egypt. Museum collections offer such people the chance to study a wide variety of artefacts, and to learn about the Ancient Egyptians – their way of life, and their achievements. Mummification is an important part of the culture, so it is wrong not to display the mummies for people to study. Warning signs can be displayed to warn people who might be offended or upset, but I am sure that the majority of people would treat them with the respect they deserve. This has been the case when I have visited museums in Cairo and Luxor.

  38. As the owner of a tour company that specializes in trips with an archaeological and cultural emphasis, I find even the thought of covering of the mummies to be frightening. The viewing of mummies by both scholars and novices is an educational experience and to think of covering them is anti-science.

    Mary Dell Lycas

  39. The Very Reverend John Methuen

    I wish to add my name to the chorus of protest at the apparent decision of the Manchester Museum to cover its unwrapped mummies, which are one of the chief attractions to the displays in your Egyptian Galleries. This appears to be one of those lunatic policies which derive from political correctness and Health and Safety gone mad.

    I lived for twelve years in Manchester as Rector of Hulme and have taken many adults and children round the displays, particularly in view of Manchester being a world leader in mummy research under the brilliant inspiration and leadership of Professor Rosalie David. Undoubtedly the mummy displays were the highlight of the visit and contributed to the fascination and education of local children as a major part of the National Curriculum, and of the reawakening of interest in Ancient Egypt by the adults. To cover the mummies would be a most retrograde step, flying in the face of most countries including Egypt itself.

    The Very Reverend John Methuen
    Formerly Dean of Ripon and
    Rector of Hulme

  40. Tilly Burton

    Whilst I agree wholeheartedly that human remains should be treated with respect and appreciate that there will always be a certain degree of controversy about the display of mummies, I feel that at least the faces, hands and feet should remain uncovered.

    I don’t think that most vistors are attracted to the display of mummies out of voyeurism, but because it gives them a sense of connection with an individual from the distant past. When one looks at the face of a mummy alongside the artefacts that the ancients produced, the human side of history become alive to far greater extend than just looking at artefacts.

    A museum is a place to educate people. Educating visitors to have respect for human remains should be as much part of that as educating them about history. I do not think that completely covering the mummies achieves education of any sort.

    To the ancient Egyptians it was not only the preservation of their bodies, but also the speaking of their names that was of paramount importance. If mummies are treasured museum displays their preservation is far better assured than if they are hidden away, and if visitors look at their faces they will speak and even remember their names – so I don’t think the ancient Egyptians would object.

  41. Jan Lailey

    The mumies in museum are respectfully displayed, in order to aid in learning. Covering them serves no useful purpose, indeed if they are not visible is their any point in having them on display in the public galleries?

  42. Stealing it from Egypt in the first place is pretty disrespectful but when I went to Cairo a local man ripped a piece off the Great Pyramid and tried to sell it to me – better to keep what we have for now.

    But covering it up is just Local-authority-style PC nonsense.

  43. Sandra Whittleston

    Reading through the comments, the majority have stated what I think about the so-called policy to cover up the mummies at the Museum.

    However, I would like to add the following. The Egyptology collection at the Manchester Museum is important not only for the region and the UK, but for the world. In light of discussions taking place it is not pre-emptive of the “policy-makers” to make a unilateral decision to cover them up. I am not a fan of (as someone put it) gawking at human remains, but recognise the importance of them for the education and knowledge of Egyptology. It is clearly a balancing act between public access to important archeaological material and showing respect for the dead. I am a keen amateur egyptologist and the more I see of the displays in museums, the more I can compare and make my own judgements on their individual value. Otherwise this material is only accessible to students working with Universities.

    This whole thing reminds me of the misguided attempts to hack out the god Min’s extremities in the late 19th Century. The legacy of this is the destruction of important material, and in today’s mind-set we cannot understand why this happened. Similarly future generations, I am sure, would be appalled to hear of the policy at Manchester, as it shakes the credibility of open-access to public material. Who are these people who have done this?

    In fact.. why not go the whole hog Manchester and take them off display altogether. There isn’t much point in having them there at all if all we can see is a body-bag in a box. Why not put them in the basement and have done with it! This PC correctness is going too far. It is like children being taken to a candy shop and all the sweets are in jars which are covered up. Not much point really is there?

    I am sure you have your reasons… but they are (to say the least) slightly unclear to me.

  44. Helen Astley

    Mummies can be displayed with respect, they do not need to be covered up. Another case of PC getting out of hand.

  45. Helen House

    This is a piece I wrote for another website – I’d like to contribute it to this discusion.

    We can’t arrange our lives or ourselves in fear of what might inspire prurient interests. I think it’s colossally sick to feel excited in that way by a 3000-year-old corpse, but I’m sure there are 1 or 2 people out there who are.

    That’s their problem.

    And I also think it’s a fake issue put forward by someone with an agenda. Sexual predation is rather a trigger issue right now, as is an unreasoable fear of disrespecting some other culture. Haul out the theme and the rest is a slam-dunk.

    However, I would not want mummies of any description used as freak show or a circus sideshow to draw in crowds for the “wrong” reasons. I would like people to visit the museum because they are interested in cultural or natural history, and they have something to learn from the mummies.

    That’s a reason I refused to visit the “Body Worlds display of plasticised human and animal remains that’s been all over the place. My doctor, who also does autopsies (medical examiner), considers that show disrespectful, as well.

    Medical schools have rooms full of human parts on display, but those are for medical study, and so the audience is limited – museums don’t impose such a limitation.

    There’s a dry-goods and sundries store in the US somewhere that has a human mummy on display – something from the Indian wars, or a
    wild west shoot-out. Tourists make a detour to visit this mummy, to gape at it, point, laugh, squirm, etc., and then do a bit of souvenir
    shopping. It would be disrespectful to set “our” mummies up for that response, that is to treat them as freakish relics or commercial
    commodities.

    On the other hand, mummies are a draw to museums for many people with the purest of intentions. So I imagine that they are useful
    not just for their historical or scientific value, but also as a way for museums to improve revenue. Can we accept or forgive that? These are hard times for museums; so we harness the Power of the Mummy. Besides, visitors are likely to view other areas in the museum while there…and visit the gift shop. I think we need to recognize that there is a justifiable and necessary commercial aspect to museums. Ideally, it would all be state-supported and free to all. But apparently we live in a much meaner world with strange priorities.

    I do feel a certain tender protectiveness toward those poor, chilly, often naked mummies exposed in glass boxes to strangers whose motives I
    don’t trust. I still think of the mummies as people and would like a way to display them in a less crassly utiitarian way. But I don’t think
    bowdlerizing a scientific exhibit is the answer. (That photo of Asru all covered up is shocking.)erhaps a schedule of visiting times with a live presentation or a film loop to provide a proper
    context for the deceased. But just abandoning them to the unschooled gaze of random crowds doesn’t do the mummies justice or improve knowledge.

  46. Christopher Plumb

    I think that is interesting that a number of responses have highlighted the “educational value” and “entertainment value” of Ancient Egyptian human remains. It was disturbing to read that some individuals see the covering of human remains as “political correctness gone mad” and preventing visitors from “meeting ‘real’ Ancient Egyptians”.

    From my own perspective I regard it as unethical to display the remains of those who are unable to give their consent. This makes a critical distinction between exhibitions such as “BodyWorks” and the display of humans from outside our own culture/ historical period.

    It is important to consider how Western European culture since the Enlightenment has appropriated Egyptian culture and laid claim to their material and human remains. It is not a question of educational value, or prioritising the desire to look at other peoples bodies that should dictate the display of human remains. It is the recognition that those on display are not done so on their own terms – without say in their representation – to fulfil our own needs – however we define or justify these needs (educational, entertainment, scientific, academic)

    The right to self determination and the ownership of our bodies is important to virtually every individual in our society. It is a status that is an ethical priority and legally protected. Both the reader and I are afforded this human dignity.

    I question the intentions of those that visit a museum to “meet a real Ancient Egyptian”. The real person is dead, cannot speak for itself, and is displayed outside its own culture in circumstances that are not consistent with Ancient Egyptian understandings of death, the afterlife, and ownership of the body (and attendant material culture: tomb objects etc). Even if display in museums was not incompatible with this – which a particular individual has not consented to allow others to see their body should be a pause of thought.

    To me, the ethical obligation is clear. We cannot appropriate another human body to satisfy our own wishes. We should not take from others that which we readily afford ourselves and others (today and in the very near past). The sands of time do not absolve us of this responsibility.

    I have a right to own my body and whilst living control who I wish to see it. I have an interest in how I represent myself and are represented to others. This statement is probably true for many individuals. When we “meet” an Ancient Egyptian in any museum we do not meet an equal footing. Put simply, I choose to be there. My own interests are served. The Egyptian exposed to me in death offered no consent whilst living and is thus owned as a commodity. It does not matter that it was impossible for this person to consent, or that they might have done so. But it does matter that we cannot absolutely know what this person desired for their body after death. One does not need to discuss the complexities of the Ancient Egyptian concept of the self, soul, and afterlife here.

    It is reasonable enough to assert that the Ancient Egyptian on display would have desired to travel to the afterlife to meet their family, friends, and gods. The integrity of their body and of the objects with which they were buried was vital to this journey. Conversely, it is reasonable to assert that exhumation from ones land of birth and spiritual home was not desired. Separation from the material objects that were intended to sustain the soul and were for its use was probably equally absent in an individuals wishes.

    It does not matter that I do not hold the same belief in an afterlife – or actually indeed in any afterlife or soul. It is enough to accept that is unethical to display or collect human remains. It is not acceptable to own the dead, and place priority on our own cultural needs and obsessions. Especially because they lack the ability to reject our desired representations of their body and life. There is no dialogue with dead – or even a meeting – merely a monologue. Our own. Such explicit domination over an individual should evoke horror and disdain.

    I went to see the Lindow Man exhibit – but refused to look at his body. Similarly I always avert my eyes when walking through the Egyptian gallery.

    Covering human remains is not “political correctness gone mad”. It is the beginning of a more equitable gaze in the museum. I think more needs to be done both here, and elsewhere.

    We all need to look closely at the way in which we look in museums and the manner in which we defend our gaze. If the rather questionable “entertainment value” of some is diminished then this is the small price of respecting others. Respecting others in a meaningful way – not as we might wish to ‘respect’ or reify them on display. This is the real difference between the mummy in the cult classic horror movie, and the mummified remains of a human in a museum.

  47. Dylan bickerstaffe

    The decision to cover-up mummies in the Manchester Museum is ridiculous but all too typical of government bodies that claim to act on our behalf. In order not to offend professional complainers, they ruin life for the rest of us.
    There is nothing wrong with having an optional area off the museum so that those who would not like such displays can avoid seeing them, but there is no good reason to cover-up (essentially remove) what are a key attraction for many visitors who then go on to develop an interest in other aspects of Egyptology and other related subjects.

    I found valuable clues to advance my research into arm-positions etc from viewing some of the Late Period examples in the Manchester Museum.

    Why did you not consult with learned bodies and the public before making such a drastic decision???

  48. Sarah Doherty

    The display of human remains is often a complex issue, as the above writers have said. Egyptology in particular is a well-loved subject that fascinates many, however it can also attract those who are more interested in the “freak show” element that was once more common in the early years of Egypology. This can still be a problem, but with correct and sensitive display of mummies and other Egyptian artifacts, we can move beyond the realm of curios collections and more towards modern day museums.

    Mummies are no longer unwrapped to entertain, as we now have scientific methods to study them. However, mummies should not be thought of as merely a subject of scientific enquiry, they are human beings, and should be treated as such, especially as are sometimes so well-preserved to fully resemmble the person they once were. This can set them apart from other human remains, even the well-preserved bog bodies found in Northern areas of Europe.

    The idea of the mummies still being seen as part of the “freak-show” mentality should hopefully no longer be upheld, provided that the museum informs and educates the general public. Children, while sometimes thinking of them as something from the movies or comic books could learn by studying and seeing the mummies how to be respectful of the dead and learn from this amazing culture.

    I think that if Manchester Museum continues to display their collection of mummies in a careful and culturally sensitive way, then future generations of Egypt-enthusiasts can contine to learn and be inspired by this ancient culture, as I have and hopefully will continue to do so.

    Sarah Doherty BA Egyptian Archaeology and soon to be MA student at University College London

  49. Charlotte Leonard

    I find the covering of mummies as a “mark of respect” extremely patronising. Who are we to say how these remains are to be treated? I sincerely hope that in five thousand years if my remains are discovered I will not be subjected to someone else’s idea of “respect”. Whilst mummies should not be treated as a sideshow to be gaped at, by covering them we are indicating there is something titilating about the remains. We cannot ask the Ancient Egyptians how they wish to be treated and we should not force our beliefs on them. Those without respect for the dead will not change if the mummies are covered, but it may stop the spark of interest in a genuine visitor who looks in amazement and sees someone so similar to themselves. When mummies are no longer interesting then their name will die, and I think most experts are in agreement that the memory of their names was extremely important to Ancient Egyptians. What next? Will we start having issues with an ithyphallic Min?

  50. Jack Weaving

    Ask the Egyptians! They are heirs to an ancient people who,s remains are currently reverently displayed in museums in every conceivable state. Perhaps the Ancients, in their quest for a continuing after life, would happily accept a similar attitude by Manchester Museum.

    Whatever; the prime reason for existance of musems generally, is to reveal all elements of historical truth. That,s difficult to discern under a modesty sheet.

  51. David Myers

    I am quite surprised to see the rather passionate exchanges on the issue of covering or uncovering mummies.
    There are numerous publications and articles where the serious student of Egyptian funerary practices can examine particular remains. For the remainder of the population, such macabre voyeurism is regrettably only too frenquently observed in world museums where mummies and peat bog remains are extant.
    The whole issue reminds me of mummy unwrapping parties of the nineteenth century where sensationalism and spectacle surpassed any respect for the deceased.
    My belief is that museums such as Manchester should show respect for all artifacts rather than cater to an increasing public taste for the sensational.
    David Myers MCH (Brisbane-Australia).

  52. Liz Ahmed

    Regarding the post by a museologist at Egypt Centre:

    “Thirdly, the museum has to take into account not simply the wishes of the public but also the deceased people. I don’t think they would want to go on display uncovered.”

    I think this is at the heart of it; who are you to impose your own beliefs on people long dead from a culture very separately removed from any modern culture? These assumptions are just so typical of museum professionals who have limited knowledge of ancient Egyptian culture and somehow assume they can speak for the ancient Egyptians.

  53. Audrey Carter

    Audrey Carter

    I am an amateur Egyptologist and spent much time in the Manchester Museum Egyptian Gallery researching for my MPhil. I was therefore appalled to learn recently of the Museum’s covering up of the mummies.

    I attended the consultation meeting in April when this matter was one of the items discussed. I was firmly of the opinion that we thought we might put notices about the presence of bodies in the gallery but that no firm decision was made about covering the mummies up.

    Surely such decisions should be finalised when the consultation meetings are completed, which they are not.

    Mummies are, as others have stated above, a valuable educational artefact and also help to provide important scientific information on ancient diseases that exist still today. They also show us how much the ancient Egyptians honoured their dead, both those from pit graves, through to mastaba tombs, pyramids and rock cut tombs.

    I feel the action that has been taken so far will diminish the reputation of both the Museum and the University of which it is a part.

  54. Pami Sani

    This is crazy. I love this museum, and my kids love the mummies. We go all the time, and they always want to go to this gallery more than the others.

    I thought museums were about listening to audiences today. Whatever happened to the access agenda? This is not something we want. Egyptians don’t want them back. So what is going on! We like the mummies !!!!!

  55. Kaman Law

    I will like to state that the opinion I posted on May 13, 2008 about the mummy topic is ONLY in my personal point of view not the museum that I volunteer at. I apologize for any confusion.

  56. Sue Dykes

    I was shocked to see that the mummies in the museum had already been covered prior to the results of the Public Consultation process.
    I overheard an Attendant trying to explain to a family why this had happened but there was no conviction in her reply.
    The covered mummies appeared far more frightening to the children than the exposed ones.Cover them partially by all means, but this enforced censorship is very patronising.

  57. Doug Darvell

    I’m afraid that I cannot understand the intention of still displaying human remains but covering them. The remains are still on display; they are still there in the case; they are simply no longer visible. If it is considered inappropriate to display mummies then they (and all other similar remains) should be removed from public view to a location where they are available for research only. This is a policy decision for the institute concerned.The artifacts associated with the remains can then remain on display.

    I do not personally have any objections to mummies being displayed as I see them as no different to the display of skeletal remains something which does not seem to evoke such passions: but I can understand views that differ.This decision by Manchester seems to present the worst of all possible options.

  58. George L Mutter

    For decades the Manchester museum has been a leader in the scientific study of human mummies by interdisciplinary teams of archaeologists and scientists. This has promoted an understanding of the health of ancient populations in the context of their environment, and evolution of disease over the years. Two years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Manchester Museum, and was quite impressed by the high level of scholarship projected in the Egyptian, including mummy, displays. It was not a simple collection of objects, precisely because it was presented in an enlightened and educational manner which promoted a sense of immediacy and identification by the visitor. By doing so the “objects” become part of a broader human experience.

    The decision to hide the mummies from view is a step backwards. It undermines the academic activities of those engaged in the scientific study of mummies, by removing their discipline from public view. The cultural context of the ancient Egyptians has been shamelessly replaced by those of contemporary special interest groups without consideration of Egyptian religious practices. The reason mummification was practiced was to ensure survival into the afterworld, and a key supplement to this is maintaining an active memory of the dead amongst the living. For an ancient Egyptian, conscious remembrance by the living thousands of years after death, would be a welcome and sought after means to achieve immortality. Lastly, as the public has so eloquently stated in this blog, mummies are inspiring. They make the past personal and emphasize the ephemeral nature of the present. Such emotional, and intellectual, responses are not easily generated by objects, but are readily elicited by up close and personal encounters with other people, in this case an ancient Egyptian.

    In the interest of inclusiveness, the Manchester Museum has become a playground for those who do not understand the subject at hand, nor respect the interests of scientists and public alike. You have succeeded in transforming an inspiring mirror into the past into a mere repackaged thing. This is an ominous development which the Museum trustees and public they serve cannot let stand.

    George L. Mutter, MD
    Associate Professor of Pathology
    Harvard Medical School
    Boston, Massachusetts, USA

  59. Rebecca Hewett

    What a shame that Manchester appear to be moving down the “covering” route. I study Ancient Egypt in my spare time as an amateur and, as such, a lot of the access that I get to objects to help my studies are through museum displays. If the access is restricted due to (as Dr Day comments) probably quite misplaced “ethical” concerns amateurs like myself would miss out on valuable insight. I urge Manchester to reconsider.

  60. hi

    i have been going to the museum for 6 or 7 years now i try to see asru almost every week and when i see her yestday i was very angry i think that this decision is a joke,and the rappngs taken off

  61. John Ditchfield

    The decision to cover the mummies in the Manchester museum seems to have pre-empted the consultation which is supposed to be taking place. Can we at least know i. whose decision it was to cover the mummies, ii. the reasoning behind it and iii. why it was decided not to wait for the outcome of the consultation process.

    There are perfectly good arguments for a ‘respect’ approach to mummies and the way they are displayed. It is perfectly true (as one respondent has pointed out) that West European culture since the Enlightenment has appropriated Egyptian culture and laid claim to their material and human remains. It is also true that the dead cannot speak for themselves and most of us would not want to our bodies to be presented this way.
    The problem with the respect argument is that it is difficult to know where to draw the line. For example, does it apply to photographs of mummies as well as the mummies themselves – and photographs not just in museums but in books as well – both are forms of public display which some people might consider disrespectful. Should we also consider closing the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. The tombs were sealed and the interiors were never meant to be seen by any mortal eye. And we certainly never asked permission of the owners. Should the catacombs be closed? The pyramids?
    Proponents of the ‘respect’ argument might object that this is a reductio ad absurdum’ argument. But that is the problem. There is simply no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer to this problem. A value judgement has to be made. And our attitudes to the display of human remains can only reflect our culture and – for better, for worse – our culture is a product of the Enlightenment which
    greatly values knowledge and enquiry and distrusts being told what it can and what it cannot see. Very often this attitude is overdone and voyeurism, sensationalism, disrespect and all kinds of ills can creep in. But that is not an argument for one group of people being allowed to arbitrarily decide what other people can or cannot see – particularly in a museum which is supposed to uphold and promote the values of knowledge and enquiry. Instead it should respect the culture it is supposed to be upholding and allow people to decide for themselves. By all means warn people that what they might see might frighten or offend them but it should then be up to them to decide whether they want to go ahead or not.
    A final point – proper presentation can, if felt necessary, go a long way to meet the ‘respect agenda’. For example, the mummies of Rameses I and Ahmose are beautifully presented in the Luxor museum – in dark purpose built rooms evoking tombs and illuminated in low light. As such they take on a certain regal quality. The museum could emulate this approach. As it is if the mummies are entirely covered then surely there is little point in having them on display at all.

  62. Marius

    i see dead people! (not anymore) :))

  63. Josie D

    Mummies are dressed for their life in the other world,we look on their remains ans see what time has done.
    We know that there is no after life,but these humans live on in our memories and our knowledge of how they lived.
    Please don’t cover them in plain cloth,any one who is offended has a dirty mind!

  64. Stephen Lynch

    I cannot believe that a couple of “complaints” has prompted the covering up of the mummies. This is akin to the Victorian attitude where all the classic “naked” statues either had fig leaves added or their”bits” broken off so as not to offend so-called decency. There are more important moral issues to be addressed that this in todays society. I would urge the complainers to get a grip on reality instead of moaning abut something like this. Uncover the mummies now I say!

  65. Tim McIver

    This appears to be a decision taken to appease the sensibilities of a minority of the public, without giving due consideration to the detrimental scientific and educational impact on the exhibition.

    The Museum policy referred to requires human remains to be displayed in a manner which is “culturally appropriate, sensitive and
    informative”. Provided that care is taken to display the mummies in a context that is designed to educate the public, without any voyeuristic element, it seems incomprehensible that displaying them partially or wholly unwrapped could be considered offensive.

    It would be preferable that the mummies should not be displayed at all, rather than the Museum expose itself to ridicule by displaying them in this manner.

  66. Lilith

    I can not believe that such redicolous measurement being taken in such substantial museum.

    The cover up of mummies borders on insanity. Where is the freedom of free expression? Manchester museum in Oxford road is well known for their artifacts, but do we now have to visit covered up mummies? What’s next? Covering up every Greek and Roman statue?

    The whole point to visit museums is to watch and admire ancient civilisations as found – without and “R” (restricted rating) applying to ancient artifacts. Does not Manchester Museum realise how unpopular the public’s reaction will be over such an insane measure?

    Civilisations thrive when free expressionis encouraged rather than restricted or made to suffer the “politically correct” over any tedious request that comes from narrow minded people.

    PLEASE IMMEDIATELY UNCOVER THE MUMMIES AND ALLOW THE PUBLIC TO ADMIRE SUCH ANCIENT MASTERPIECES, AND PLEASE IGNORE WHOEVER WANTS TO MUZZLE FREEDOM TO APPRECIATE ANCIENT ARTIFACTS.

  67. Robert Edward

    Perhaps Manchester museum should cover the chimps too? Orangs and gorillas as well. Just in case. Has the museum consulted the great apes on the display of their remains? WIDER CANVASSING PLEASE.

  68. Sarah

    I don’t believe that the covering was really in response to a few complaints. The real reason is the close link between certain staff at the museum and HAD (Honouring the Ancient Dead – a group representing SOME pagans within Britain who believe that showing human remains or even keeping them in archaeological repositories is abhorrent to them). This view is not shared by all pagans and we certainly cannot tell if it was the view of past human groups (this is imposing views upon the past without knowledge). Why can the remains not be displayed in the same ways as in certain other collections – such as Dublin – where the routes around the displays allow you to either go in to see the human remains (be they mummies or skeletons) or to avoid them and go around the outside. This shows respect to all museum visitors whilst allowing education of those like me who are trying to understand past humans and their funerary practices.

  69. Danielle Mannion

    As a first year student of history at Manchester University I was very disappointed to hear that the museum had decided to cover up the unwrapped mummies in its collection. Luckily I visited the museum last month, just before the remains were covered, though I am afraid that those fellow students to whom I recommended the museum will not be able to enjoy as fulfilling a visit as I did.

    I agree with other comments posted here which suggest that this action has been taken with the views of an offended minority in mind. Manchester Museum is part of the University of Manchester in some way is it not? As such it must surely have some sort of obligation to educate not only students of the city but the wider community. As a student I know very well that there is only so much knowledge that can be gained from studying books and pictures, artifacts such as the Manchester mummies are thus very valuable study aids and should not be taken away.

    By displaying these mummies uncovered, the museum was not treating them without respect, as has been said before they were not uncovered for entertainment, but for education. Using the uncovered mummies to educate people about the culture in which the mummies originated seems to me to be far more respectful than drawing a veil between their culture and our own, preventing any human connection that may have been felt between the two.

  70. Jim Robinson

    I thought I had seen every possible depth into the realm of abject stupidity until I saw this. This is the PC brigade gone bonkers.

    How can one admire the skill and dedication that went into preserving these bodies 4,000 years ago if we can’t see the body because it is covered? The fact that these relics are here today to be viewed is directly result of the skill of the embalmers and the beliefs of an ancient and great culture.

    This is an absolutely ridiculous complaint, typical of the mentality of today where everyone’s enjoyment of all things must be curtailed to satisfy the demands of the minority who take offence at almost everything.

    Please reverse this barmy decision forthwith, and to those who find presence of naked remains offensive, don’t ruin things for the rest of us, as the solution is simple…. don’t look at them!

  71. Karen Peake

    I have been visiting Manchester Museum for the last 40 years, the Mummies were one of the reasons, as a teenager, I kept returning time and time again. I felt the exhibits were displayed in a very appropriate and sensitive way. I still feel that today. I can understand why some people may find one or two of the displays a little disturbing, if they are unprepared for what they are going to see. However if you are going to cover them up, why not recover them as they were rather than just wrapping them in a sheet, or discreet coverings where necessary. You can’t please all the people all of the time but this issue seems to have blown out of all proportion when you look at what has happened in Burma and China recently. We can all learn from history, hopefully the powers that be in Manchester Museum can learn from this experience and take into consideration the amount of feeling that has been generated with this action. My feeling is that this debate may well continue for a while but I hope a sensible outcome for all may be achieved. I will continue to visit the Museum whatever the outcome is and will encourage others to do so.

  72. Malcolm Chapman

    On behalf of The Manchester Museum I would like to respond to some of the comments received on this blog.

    The decision to cover some of the unwrapped human remains on display in the Ancient Egypt Galleries was not taken lightly, nor is it a ‘knee-jerk’ or ‘politically correct’ response to one or two individual comments.

    The Museum has been working on the issues surrounding human remains for a number of years and is at the forefront of the debate over how to care for and display human remains in museums in the UK. Our Policy on Human Remains (available on the Museum’s website http://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/reportspolicies/) was the result of a twelve month open consultation process. This allowed us to work with and consider the views of a large and diverse group of museum users including academics, researchers, special interest groups, faith groups and general museum visitors. We have been one of the few museums in the UK to consistently open this debate to the wider public.

    The Department for Culture, Media and Sport ‘Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums’ states that “those planning displays should consider how best to prepare visitors to view them resectfully, or to warn those who may not wish to see them at all. As a general principle, human remains should be displayed in such a way as to avoid people coming across them unawares. This might be in a specially partitioned or alcoved part of a gallery.”

    At present the human remains in this gallery are not displayed in a separate section, with the exception of Asru. However, in the case of Asru there is still the possibility that visitors may come across her without warning.

    Given this, we have decided to explore different ways in which we could display these human remains. This is part of the consultation process, it does not pre-empt it. The current temporary covering of three of the eleven mummies is proving to be a useful way of gauging public opinion.

    The Museum’s Policy on Human Remains provides the framework for the ethical curation and display of human remains from whatever historic period or country of origin. The current covering of the unwrapped mummies and associated consultation is one way of addressing this and will be reviewed by our Human Remains Panel.

    As a museum we have a long-standing commitment to consultation and wish to ensure we hear from as representative and diverse range of visitors and users as possible.

    Malcolm Chapman
    Head of Collections Development
    The Manchester Museum

  73. Jamie

    I predict we will have young earth creationists invited to “critique” the evolution exhibit next, all in the interests of some faddish notions of “inclusiveness” and “balance”.

  74. Billie

    I don’t believe the mummies should be covered. I live on the east coast of Australia, and have read a large number of sources on ancient Egypt (including Rosalie David). I am not an egyptology professional, academic or student, I am simply very interested. I have also never left Australia, so my knowledge of ancient Egypt is purely second hand and based on media such as books and video documentaries.

    I cannot describe in words the effect of visiting a travelling exhibition from the Louvre of Egyptian artefacts. To see the items in context, to appreciate their size, to be so close and to see them ‘for real’ was awe-inspiring. I was trembling through most of my visit, and there is no comparison between seeing a photograph of video footage, and seeing the artefacts in person, even in a glass case.

    Should the mummies be removed or covered up, people such as myself, with no qualifications or studies and therefore no reason to be granted the privilege of seeing artefacts not in the public galleries, will never have this experience, will never have that mind-blowing revelation of everything that I have read about being real, and this reality enhancing any further study that I do.

    As far as respect and reverence goes, my interest in ancient Egypt is primarily in spirituality and religion. It’s not a spectacle, it’s not macabre. It’s sacred.

    So what to do about the so-called gawking voyeurs and the interested people such as myself? Should a distinction be made, and only interested people and formal scholars be admitted to see the mummies? How would that distinction be made?

  75. If people are offended – Let them Not Look !
    Perhaps the Mummy’s could be displayed in a private room, so that people have a choice. There is nothing disrespectful about displaying the Mummy’s uncovered, for the most part, Museum’s display their Mummy’s respectfully.
    Didn’t the Ancient Egyptian Women wear topless clothing and ‘see through’ skirt’s !

  76. S. Bourke

    What is the point of having a display if you cant see it?
    I thought the whole idea of a museum was for people to be able to wander around see, examine and learn about previous events and times in history.
    If you dont like the subject matter then dont look!

  77. Daren OShea

    Why on earth would anyone come to the museum to see a wrapped-up mummy? I can replicate that in my own home with an old blanket and a few pillows! Dont be so ridiculous, the kind of people who object to these pieces being seen are the same type of people who painted clothing over masterpiece paintings.

    Here is a revelation – under our clothing we are all of us naked! grow up, accept that, any objection to those mummys being shown as they were is nothing more than small-mindedness and prudism!

  78. So you spent 12 months and all you came up with a one-size-fits-all policy for human remains from all over the world and from different eras? It sounds like you applied British Victorian values on all those people.

    And then you spring it on the public to see how they react. What is this, some sort of garbage posing as a modern art where the intention is to stir up controversy and nothing more?

    If you truly are interested in respecting the dead, then you would treat the dead in the way that they themselves would have wished to have been treated. You would send the mummies back to Egypt to be returned to their own tombs as they wished to be left for eternity. Or at the very least, you would be delivering 1000 loaves of bread and 1000 jugs of beer to the galleries every day to sustain the mummies in the afterlife. Nothing less is just imposing your own culture, not being culturally sensitive.

  79. Now I have read your policy and just discovered that your museum is violating its own policy with this move. I quote:

    “When there is genealogical descent or continuing cultural affiliation, consent of appropriate communities will be sought for any programmes which involve those remains.”

    There is good reason to believe that the Egyptians in your museum are the descendants of mondern-day Egyptians, and as I have spent my entire career as an Egyptologist researching the cultural connections between ancient and modern Egypt I can tell you that they definitely are strong and widespread in Egyptian culture.

    So can you explain to me why the museum wishes to deny these connections and has not consulted Egyptians on this matter?

  80. jeff roberts

    A very good way to create interest in your exhibition and increase visitor numbers–ten out of ten for your publicity department–or are you serious?If so the P.C. brigade triumph yet again….come on get real.I may add that as a practising naturist,I find the clothing of the mummies as objectionable as those who want them covered.

    J.Roberts

  81. C Farrow

    This is one of the most ridiculous things I heard for a long time. To follow this though to its natural conclusion why not shut the museum, in fact all museum and start burning books! Please let common sense win on this one and uncover the mummies. If I get unearthed in a few hundred year time feel free to display my bones as a historic record of the time that I live in.

  82. Louise

    I have taken my younger sister to the museum several times – the egyptian section as always her favourite, with her asking dozens of questions about what mummies were, why people did that to the bodies, where they came from etc.
    If I take her again the only question I expect is “what are those sheets for?”

    If the museum wants us to use our imagination to decide what mummies are really like we can all stay home for that.
    It is the mose ridiculous thing I have ever heard, and a real shame and a stupid decision.
    If people are offended by the mummies they are well within their rights not to enter that gallery. MOSI has not had this trouble.

  83. amy booth

    please.please uncover the mummies. what about children like me who want to learn all we can about the egyptians! its not worth me coming to the museum if i cant see them. think of the children of the future not the moaning busy boddies of the past who have nothing better to do than complain. thankyou amy aged 10.

  84. Emily Booth

    It’s ridulous to cover these mummies, Manchester is a leading museum for eyptology and shouldn’t be told how to display the artefacts, this is another example of political correctness gone mad. The mummies are of scientific and historical value and should be seen by the public for educational reasons, its not disrespecting them in any way but making people aware of what actually happened in ancient Egypt.

  85. This has been reported in some of the newspapers as a covering up of nudity. If the reports are incorrect then more care should have been taken with the press releases. If they are correct then it is absolutely outrageous. Prudery is extremely offensive to lots of people. When we naturists get dressed the disguise is perfect so few appreciate how many of us there are. Well over a million people in the UK describe themselves as being a naturist and about 10 times that number are naturist to at least some extent.

    We are not experts on Ancient Egyptian culture but our understanding is that clothing was a statement of rank and that there was no nudity taboo. Nudity, except for the rare occasions when the weather was cold, was the norm for pre-adolescent children, servants and labourers.

    This cover up has much more to do with a tiny minority attempting to impose their prejudices on the rest of us than it does with respect.

    Censorship is pernicious and corrosive, not least because most of the time the viewer is unaware of it and so does not have the opportunity to complain. It must not be allowed to increase.

    Malcolm Boura
    British Naturism

  86. K. Moon

    When I first read the reports in the press I had to check it wasn’t April 1st. What a stupid response by Manchester Museum to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Guidance Note for the Care of Human Remains in Museums, which states:

    ‘Displays should always be accompanied by sufficient explanatory material.
    Those planning displays should consider how best to prepare visitors to view them respectfully, or to warn those who may not wish to see them at all. As a general principle, human remains should be displayed in such a way as to avoid people coming across them unawares. This might be in a specially partitioned or alcoved part of a gallery.’

    I must show my grandchildren what a mummy looks like – look children there’s an egyptian mummy- its that piece of cloth over there called a shroud – very educational!

    Manchester Museum has just got ‘egg on its face’ and the management should get a grip on reality!

  87. John Ware

    Malcolm Chapman:

    Thank you for your explanation. But to put it simply – your reasoning is very very strange.

    The point of a museum is to inform, educate and entertain.
    Wrapping up mummies achieves none of these. It is odd that those overseeing the museum could miss the point so completely.

    You also write:
    “The current temporary covering of three of the eleven mummies is proving to be a useful way of gauging public opinion”.

    This is pure pretence and your action only shows how out of touch the museum is with the visiting public.

  88. Richard Bond

    Undress the mummies and stop being so politically correct. Once more, a fine example of “knuckle head” Britain’s desperate need to invent new forms of political correctness

    Let the people see the exhibit and let those who may be offended make their own decision NOT to go to the exhibition. You are not nannies or censors.

  89. Ailsa

    I thought this country and the oh so PC liberal left could not get any more barking than it already is. But I was very wrong. Why are people offended by mummies? Nudity and death are everywhere, displayed in magazines, newspapers and movies. If displaying the mummies is offensive or degrading don’t just cover them up, re-inter them where they belong, and can you please throw in the stupid complaining minority at the same time and do us all a favour.

  90. Stephen

    You’re a museum. Your job is to care for these incredible discoveries and occasionally show them. It is not your job to be the public’s moral centre. If people don’t want to see the flesh of a mummy, I’m sure they can make the decision not to visit them.

  91. L.Ryan

    Only a distinct lack of education could possibly be identified as the cause of such a ridiculous decision, what next, perhaps we could cover up headstones in cemetaries in case it is offensive to some minority.
    Damn the sensitive, get a life.

  92. B. Anthony

    The comparison of the covering of Egyptian human remains to the return of Australian Aboriginal human remains is just ludicrous. Firstly the Australian Aboriginal remains were allegedly stolen and secondly there may be living descendants of those whose remains were removed.

    Is is unlikely there are living descendants of the Egyptian Mummies today, so who is this strange censorship showing respect to? The little I know of Egyptian history/society makes me think that these “Mummies” would likely be quite proud of their role in preserving a part of their ancient civilisation and the teaching to a ‘modern’ society of the amazing culture of ancient Egypt.

    It never ceases to amaze me how conservative ‘modern’ western society has become..What shall we cover/censor next..?? Nude sculptures could get underwear, paintings depicting animal hunting could be covered, maybe we should all start burning our books for fear they may offend someone, somewhere, at sometime in the future..

    No, I have a better idea..lets just move back into a cave, destroy anything that is different to us and pretend the last few 1000 years of technological, scientific and human advancement never ever happened..

    In a time of heightened religious and racial tensions around the World, organisations such as Museums, Libraries and Galleries have a place in telling stories we have never heard, showing people from other lands and ideas from the past. These “places of learning/culture/education” should not pander to a few who can make their voices heard above the rabble of the open-minded, sensible and enquiring minds of today.

    BooHoo Manchester Museum, is your financial position so delicate you need to pander to such wowsers..

  93. Mollie Tucker

    I have never liked the sight of remains in museums, even dead animals. The way that modern Egyptians treat animals is particularly cruel. The live export of animals from Australia was banned until Egypt supposedly lifted its standards.

    Mankind has not really progressed in a humane way towards living creatures full stop. Governments still send their people, particularly young men and women, to die in wars that are not for protection of a nation’s statehood, but for economic reasons. I see no reason to make a fuss over unclothed long dead mummies and only worry about my person while I am still alive. There is too much hoohah about the subject already.

  94. Roger Forshaw

    I have read with interest the comments posted on the website and as someone who is actively engaged in research into ancient Egyptian remains, I have to agree with earlier comments that to hide the mummies from view is a step backwards. It undermines the academic activities of those who are engaged in the scientific study of mummies, by removing their discipline from public view. Surely the function of a Museum is to stimulate interest and disseminate knowledge which hopefully would encourage future academic research. I doubt if censorship helps to achieve these objectives.

    I also agree with a number of respondents who suggest that a sensitive presentation of the mummies in a specially designed area or room, with appropriate warnings, would go a long way to addressing the respect/ethical argument.

    I think the statement on this website posted by Malcolm Chapman, on behalf of Manchester Museum, merits a response. If this issue is under consultation as he states, then why has action already been taken? I remain unconvinced by his argument that covering up is part of the consultation process. Possibly the Human Review Panel considers that their opinion is above debate. Surely a fully transparent discussion would engender more respect, otherwise the Museum is in danger of being ridiculed, and their aim as stated in the Policy on Human Remains of being ‘the leading university in the world by 2010’ will not be realised.

    He also states that he wishes to hear a range of views – if that is indeed the case I hope that he and the Human Remains Panel will take into consideration the majority of the views expressed at this website. I calculate that nearly 80% of the 76 comments I read, are in favour of displaying the mummies in an uncovered state – will commonsense and democracy prevail?

  95. shane

    Political correctness gone mad, with a splash of prudishness and a scraping of projecting one’s own death fears and nudity anxieties. Freud would have a field day on this one!

  96. Jose Madrese

    As a Pastafarian I fully support the museum’s actions.

    The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has a small but growing interest in Eygptology. Dr Lynne Gweenie’s recent discovery that Giovanni Belzoni’s letters contained a recipe for the perfect ragu, and the growing evidence that Canopic jars were actually a means of transporting Mama’s pesto sauce into the afterlife have spurred us on in the knowledge that one day His Gospel will be proved.

    Each member of the Association of Shouty Offendeds must have their views respected. We share the pain felt by those who are so afraid of death that they must be shielded from it, and we sympathise with those who are disturbed (not aroused, definitely not aroused) by the naked body of an ancient Egyptian woman.

    Some of our more spiritual followers are attuned to the pain of every carboniferous artefact. They tell us of the offence given to all modern life forms by the morbid display of animal bone, wooden bowls, papyrus, and straw-tempered pottery. Hopefully, in time, the museum will respect them as well. Some things are taboo, and must remain so. Archaeology is a very odd pursuit, and macabre in the extreme. History shows us that intellectual curiosity has got us nowhere.

    Just imagine the spiritual power of a museum with all organic artefacts wrapped in cloth. Only at this stage will they truly rest in peace.

    Some may see this as an act of pure fusility but even museum curators are not immune to the touch of His noodly appendage.

    RAmen.

  97. K. Moon

    I submitted comment number 77 on the 22nd May at 8.31pm which was pointed but serious. My comment does not appear to have been added to the published comments and is marked as – ‘AWAITING MODERATION’

    Who is going to moderate it or are you exercising a system of censorship and selecting what you publish. My comment is pointed and so it needs to be, but it contains no strong language nor political or religious overtones. Yes it criticises the managements decision. They invited the comments so they should be big enough to take criticism.

  98. PC Police

    If you are going to cover the mummies, just go the full way and remove them from the museum completely and rebury them in Egypt, along with all of the burial equipment that is also in the museum. It is best that way; we can feel good about our enlightened, politically correct views and doing “what the ancients wanted”. Really, just get rid of them. Oh, and then fire all the keepers and Egyptologists at the Manchester Museum as redundant.

  99. E. Vicente

    Dear Sirs,

    I would like to let you know that I consider such decision a very poor one and will not visit or recommend your facilities and collection any more.

    Sincerely,

    E. Vicente

  100. carole

    Has the management of the museum gone totally mad! First we had the disgrace that is the Lindow man exhibit, now we are putting sheets over mummies.

    Sensitivity to the display of human remains, yes, but that is not the same as aceedding to the wishes of some minority adherents of a made-up religion, who seem to want to claim the whole of the non-christian past as their own.

    As an academic at Manchester university, I am ashamed to see the university museum dragging their academic reputation into the mud.

  101. samantha lewis

    Almost every school holiday i take my son to Manchester Museum primarly to see the Mummies. I have never thought that the display disrespects the dead. It is a very interesting and educational place which i fear will lose some of this value when it is covered up. By covering up it may appear that someone is sterilising history and censoring what we should learn.

    Recently another of Manchester’s prestigous museums had a similar display of deceased person’s. Again this had a great educational value which outweighs the maccarbe.

    However which ever way you look at it, the human body is a uniquely beautiful creation that does not need to be censored. If people do not agree with deceased bodies being displayed for eductional value then those person’s should not visit. Personally i do not think that there is no sexual element to the mummies but by covering them up now, parents like myself will have to explain why they are covered up. If i had any issue about any musem attraction not being suitable then i would not take my son but this should be my choice as a parent.

  102. Bob Partridge

    Like many, I have been following the comments made here and also in the museum with great interest, and it seems clear to me that the vast majority of responses are in favour of the uncovering of the mummies, both now and for the future display in the museum. Other important issues have also been raised, like the idea that the mummies should, in the future, perhaps be in a separate area, which I have no problem with.

    I do not find the arguements for displaying Lindow Man but not the mummies is really convincing and they are selective. Many equally valid arguements could be raised as to why Lindow Man should not be displayed and why the mummies should.

    I think most of the valid points have now been raised but I would like to make the following comments.

    With an increase in interest in this, the Museum seems to have issued several comments to the press, which have not necessarily helped logical and reasoned arguements to be put forward.

    Firstly, it was implied that the public had objected to the remains being naked, and this is something the newspapers have, perhaps not surprisingly, grasped and publicised. The mummies in question have never been displayed naked, and the museum should have made this clear. One of the mummies in question is still bandaged with no flesh showing at all, the child mummy had its head exposed, and Asru was partly shrouded in a linen cloth.

    Some of the responses made are under the mistaken impression that the bodies were naked.

    Secondly the Museum seems to be hiding behind “Government guidelines” as a reason for covering the mummies. This is not accurate, for, having got a copy, the guidelines make it clear that they are non-statutory and encourage museums to make up their own policy in the light of their own collections.

    Interestingly the guidelines make no specific references to mummies, and the list of those formulating these guidelines does not seem to have included any input from Egyptologists who know about mummies. The guidelines also seem to refer to remains less than 500 years old, (i.e. Items collected by museums in the time of the British Empire) more than any older remains

    The reaction to the covering has perhaps been surprising and comes from all around the world, with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation mentioning the issues in one of its news programmes.

    What is really interesting, is that only recently have the words “temporary” and “part of the consultation process” been used by the museum.

    If this is indeed now the case, I would have thought that the feedback recieved, which is what the museum asked for, is enough to justify the mummies being uncovered now and it will have provided much valuable information and suggestions, in a very short space of time, for the museum to take them into account when the Egyptian Gallery is reorganised.

    The comments made now in favour of the mummies being uncovered, must outnumber the negative comments the museum received before (and I would be curious to know how many complaints had been received, and over how long a period).

    I can but hope that the “temporary” covering is very temporary indeed and that visitors to the museum can see the uncovered mummies as well as the exposed body of Lindow Man… and actually the comparison between the two, of a naturally preserved and artificially preserved body is educational and informative too and could enhance the visit to both displays.

    Bob Partridge
    Editor
    “Ancient Egypt” magazine

  103. Nicola Lawson

    In my humble opinion if you are outraged or disturbed by seeing human remains or artefacts which you know are going to be there then don’t go, no one is tricked into seeing anything they don’t want to by the Museum.

    I for one had lots of visits to said museum over the years and have thoroughly enjoyed every single one and the only thing that creeped me out was a huge spider crab which (when I was a toddler) towered above me as it’s stood with it’s legs dangling down and is about 4′ high. I hated it but I never once even considered making a fuss and telling the museum they must take it away because I don’t like it… I simply avoided it or didn’t look at it… who am I to dictate what people should be able to look at in an educational place?

    If they were campaigning to have the bodies respectfully returned to where they came from, I could see that point but they aren’t they simply want body parts covered up because they are offended a la outdated Victorian morals and values.

    These are educational premises and to withhold educational tools (by covering the mummies up) because few are offended is denying our children the right to learn.

  104. Geoff

    I thought this was a joke until I realised it was correct. Like McEnro used to say, YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! There are so many bizarre nutters in this country that I’m sure they now rule the roost in executive positions.

    Tell you what, just shove some carpet or crumpled newspaper inside the cover shrouds and nobody will be the wiser. I despair at times the way this madness is affecting all walks of life. What next are we to have all the nude paintings covered up in the art galleries?

    Seeing as we are living in an incredibly daft era, why not just move the damn things into a private room and then all the stupid sensitive fools won’t have to view them. Although I bet they’d still take a peek.

    This is beyond silliness – it is the decision of clowns. You should be ashamed for taking even the slightest notice of the moronic complainers. Just ignore them like any sensible person would do.

  105. How very, very delicate some decision-takers must think the general public to be.
    I just wished to mention that the national CBC radio One, here in Canada, has had fun with the covering-of-the-mummies story.
    As I see it, the bodies have been covered up as though there is something obscene about them. Rather than treating them with the respect due to human remains, they are being treated as though they are, in some way, ‘dirty’, distasteful, vulgar, not fit to be seen.
    I seem to recall that, once upon a time, the legs (oops, pardon me!) the ‘limbs’ of pianos and of tables were covered with cute little skirts, and that this foolishness degenerated to the point that such skirts were incorporated into the actual design and carving of the wooden supports in question.
    Surely, if anyone at all has a problem with seeing the bodies displayed, a University Museum has a responsibility to educate said anyone, rather than to capitulate to their uneducated sensiblities.
    — Claive Booker, sending this note from the centre-sud of Montreal, Quebec. –

  106. Some Cover Up!

    What? This sort of “political correctness rubbish” is going to lead to the covering of skeletons too?

    To give some credit, these are not nameless corpses from a bygone era. The Egyptian mummies displayed at Manchester and other museums are individuals we seem to recognize at some personal level. We know their names, their occupations and their position in their ancient society. The Egyptian Museum in Cairo acknowledges this fact and their royal mummies are presented with a “shroud of dignity” covering most of their bodies. I personally don’t care to see the private parts of a mummy. Most people would agree. But visitors like some kind of acquaintance with these individuals, some form of connection that bridges the time abyss. It’s not offensive to view the faces of mummies, to see them as human beings, their arms, hands and feet. We marvel at the high degree of knowledge of ancient Egyptian embalmers, the mastery of their craft.

    To cover a mummy in its entirety the way it’s being done at the present time at the Manchester Museum is tantamount to displaying corpses at a morgue

  107. Neil Weston

    The display of human remains in general raises many issues but in relation to Manchester’s specific mummies I do not believe there was anything at all disrespectful about the way they have been shown for years. They have been educational and inspirational to countless visitors and the sensitive display of Asru, in particular, was the basis for gaining a real empathy and understanding of that period in history.

    I do not find Malcolm Chapman’s comments about ‘open consultation’ at all convincing. It’s right that the various groups mentioned all have a voice but what weight was given to the views of museum visitors in general? No – previous bloggers had it right in talking about a patronising attitude and decisions influenced heavily by vociferous ‘politically correct’ groups. But then, that’s what we have come to expect in so many aspects of life in recent years at the expense of common sense.

    Come on Manchester Museum, read again blog 14 from J. Peter Phillips, uncover the mummies and cease making your fine institution look ridiculous.

  108. J D

    Some respondents have argued that displaying the mummies goes against the wishes of the deceased. But the mummies no longer have wishes, on account of their being deceased. There will always be people who get ‘offended’ at the drop of a hat; well I’m offended by them getting offended. Can everyone please stop taking offence?

  109. Peter Robinson

    If the talk of covering up Asru, the Stoneyhurst Child and Khary has resulted from the comments by pagans associated with the museum’s celebration with the display of Lindow Man, then I am afraid that that shows an extremely bigotted point of view by such groups. What right have THEY (the pagans), to claim to represent the rights of Lindow Man to be allowed to be put on display, yet in the same breath, THEY (the pagans) refuse non-British human remains to be displayed to the public, even with the option of public choice? Is there some neo-fascist political agenda here? Are we seeing, by the pagans, an attempt to neo-colonialise the museum with ‘right-thinking’ corpses, or remains that reflect their pagan views? If that is not their intention, then why dis-inform all visitors by sweeping the Egyptian mummies from view under sheets of undescript cloth.

    If the ‘pagans’ knew their stuff, they would be aware that the Ancient Egyptians, through their extensive afterlife literatures, celebrated both life AND death, and wished for their mortal remains to ‘go out by day’ and join the Living in the sunlight of the day. Their Books of the Dead, Coffin Texts and Pyramid texts gave note that the dead abhorred being forgotten and left to moulder in dark, hidden places. From my own excavations and researches in British Archaeology (I graduated with a Master degree from Manchester some years ago), I cannot recall any original native ‘pagan’ writings about the afterlife from the time of Lindow Man, let alone from the earlier times of Asru and her fellow Egyptians.

    Please note that I am normally ‘pagan-friendly’ and will always see any religious view as adding to the full total of human culture, so no belief, as far as I am concerned, is to be prescriptive. But Manchester Museum, in this case, has certainly gone TOO FAR in restricting religious views and intentions.

    Partially clothe naked mummies, by all means. Give visitors the choice of avoiding human remains. But DO NOT attempt to ‘manage’ the way scholars and the public wish to think with your own poisoned ideas! Remove the coverings immediately, please.

    Peter Robinson
    Poynton Egypt Group, Great Britain,
    American Research Center in Egypt,
    Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, Canada.

  110. Ulrich Martin

    This whole situation is getting progressively more silly. Now we have Zahi Hawass agreeing with the museum, supporting the the notion that the ancients would be ashamed by their public nudity. However, let us remember just what it was that the ancient Egyptians wore in life: not a lot! If people dressed today in public and the ancients did, they’d be arrested

    It is unbelievable that a corpse, thousands of years old, has “rights”, at least those magically determined by people alive today who somehow divined the thought processes and wishes of long, long dead people.

  111. maria k

    regarding the comments left by Christopher Plumb -

    I agree totally – I have had a keen interest in Egyptology since childhood but always felt uncomfortable with the ‘graverobber’ aspects of discovery – I would not be at all troubled or have my interest marred by not being able to view the disinterred corpses of people who did not consent to this treatment

    realistically – the artefacts cannot be re-interred as they would soon appear on the ‘black market’ but I would be perfectly happy and prefer to never see a disinterred corpse on public view (I have no problem ethically or morally with the Bodyworks exhibit or similar exhibits of the preserved corpses of deceased where that is their wish and consent/donation of remains was freely given)

  112. Ian Flinn

    The mummies should certainly be treated with the greatest respect. But this does not mean covering them when they are on display.

    Political correctness has become absurd in a number of areas, and this is one of them. As a compromise perhaps the answer is to display them in a separate room (as some of the major royal ones are at the Cairo Museum) with suitable warnings to the ignorant – who are unlikely to be in the museum in the first place – that if they enter they will see the remains of people who lived and died thousands of years ago.

  113. Pingback: Egyptian mummies censored « The Assemblage

  114. steve rogers

    i just want to say, poo to the pc brigade.
    if we just tuck tail and cover up everything that the minority feel is unjust and offensive then huzzah!!!!

    shut all the churches and mosques

    shut all the galleries and burn the art

    shut all the museums and that includes the displays focusing on the ww11 persecution of religious and racial minorities and physical and mentally handicapped.

    oh and while we are at it can everyone with blonde hair take a step forward and move to the front of the queue you are going to be put before everyone……where do we stop…?

    i dont agree with sexist and bigotous racist opression but i do agree that respect should be shown to human remains…..that said we are fullfilling the wishes of people who died centuries ago by learning about them and thus giving them the IMMORTALITY that they sought. we have the best display in europe of ancient peoples not just egyptian. i personnally have been to cairo whilst in the forces and believe me the respect with the care we show far outshines the displays in the cairo museum (crumbling remains due to the cases not being sealed etc etc mould growing on the bodies in full view but not cared for properly)

    for international awareness manchester is right up there with the leaders in promoting education and awarness to all sides of the argument. this said being aware and being caring for peoples views we live in a democracy that means MAJORITY VIEW RULES!!! sorry to dampen the chips with my own vinegar but hey….

    do the ancients a favour and treat them like we treat out family when they die….we view and we pay our respects and thus by interataction we LEARN about them more than we thought we did looking through books (photo albums etc) and please please please if we are going to go with the thats not for you dont look brigade then get rid of the bodyworks dinosaurs and literature and art that this city is proud and famous for!!!! rant over.

  115. Beverley Hall

    My mother used to bring me to see the mummies when I was a child,just as her mother had done too.I didnt grow up with any weird or ‘macabre’ interest in human remains,infact quite the opposite.I am now training to be a nurse and recently brought my own children to the museum.I was saddened to see the mummies covered and found it hard to explain to my children the reasons why.How can we show their generation the marvellous techniques used,care given and openess the Ancient Egyptians had for their dead and belief in the after-life if we cover up and hide behind political correctness???If people are offended by the remains then dont visit the exhibition or have the remains displayed in a seperate area…..if this is still an issue then lets send all the remains we have in this country back to Egypt and bury them away where no one can learn from them!!!!!Ridiculous.Manchester has always been at the forefront of discovery and research and is well known for its museum displays….this is an embarrassment.TAKE THE SHEETS OFF!!!!!!

  116. Mr. Nicholas Smith RMHN

    I feel I must add my voice to the groundswell of protest regarding the covering of the three mummies in the Egyptian gallery collection. As an Egyptology student the value of being able to have visual access to the unwrapped mummies is of great value. The ‘priestess’ Asru suffered from many illnesses in her lifetime, being able to see her in the flesh makes her all the more human and place’s her humanity in context with the hardships of her time.Please reverse this foolish and shortsighted policy. A note should be placed stating that Human remains are part of the collection so the public can as adults make the decision to view the mummies for themselves.

  117. Roger Andrews

    So the reports of Manchester Museum’s dangerous act of censorship, this literal covering up of knowledge, is not a joke. How soon before the Whitworth Art Gallery decides to cover its Francis Bacon nudes for the same reasons. As another poster has pointed out our museums have been Disneyfied and dumbed down to such an extent that the V&A’s call of “a great caff with a museum attached” is answered by Manchester’s ‘Brilliant! So great we have such a fab museum on our doorstep”. Museology has a lot to answer for. This kind of appeasement, the cowardice of the museum directors, is very dangerous and requires a forceful response. I (and I hope others) will write to the Wolfson Foundation (8 Queen Anne Street, London W1) – indeed all of the Museum’s sponsors – to ask why they are funding an institution that acts in this way and to the Charities Commission to ask whether this restrictive action is in line with the museum’s status as a charity.

  118. donna

    Personaly I believe that the mummies should not be covered.
    If these actions are supposedly in line with the human rights policy, then why were the mummies not covered before?
    The covering up of the mummies seems to coincide with the critisim from the church regarding the Bodyworlds exhibition.

  119. Sarah Griffiths

    If this is a cynical ploy at gaining extra publicity for the museum, then it’s worked, so stop playing about and uncover the mummies. Maybe this is a case of someone deciding to do something controversial to make waves and make their mark on the museum – storm in, look important, shake everything about, leave?

    How can you on one hand show Lindow Man in all his naked glory, and then say you have to cover up the Egyptian bodies? And what material have you draped over them? Will that damage the bodies in any way?

    And if you’re so concerned about public opinion, aren’t you supposed to “consult” first and “do” after?

    Shame on you!

  120. hubert s weiner

    i totally agree with bob partridges comments. please get rid of this nonsensical covering up proposition which is turning the museum into a laughingstock in egyptology circles

  121. Eleanor

    This debate has clearly sparked a lot of very strong feelings in many people.

    I have visited the Manchester Museum many times with my children, from when they were quite young, to just the other day – they are now aged 10 and 11.

    I feel that the majority of “ordinary” people coming to visit the museum probably haven’t given too much thought to this issue, until now. But in all the occasions I have visited the Egyptology gallery I have never seen anybody joking, sniggering, gawking or otherwise “disrespecting” the remains. My children have always been fairly awed, and have asked pertinent questions. I think the remains are already displayed respectfully. It is certainly not a “freakshow”. I was disappointed to see the mummies covered. However, if an empty sarcophagus was on display, with a notice saying that the remains had now been respectfully re-buried, or put in storage somewhere, or were being used for scientific or academic study, I wouldn’t be too bothered. However, it is frustrating to in effect say, “Here’s a mummy, but we’re not going to let you see it”. I say, remove them, or display them.

    An improvement, I suppose, for those who are exceptionally sensitive or precious about this, would be to house the mummies in a separate room, with a notice outside saying that the mummies are being displayed separately out of respect for human remains, and that anyone likely to be offended needn’t go in and see them.

    I, for one, knew that I would probably be disturbed by the Bodyworlds exhibition, probably disgusted, and I also could not see any point to it. Therefore, I did not go. I suppose this does raise an issue – did these “bodies”, when they were alive, give consent to their remains being displayed in this way? And could this then be extended to the mummies, who clearly could not have envisaged their remains being displayed like this, and therefore could not have given consent. But it’s not about how the mummies might feel anyway, it’s about us, and what is says about us. If they are displayed appropriately, as they are now (uncovered, I mean), and viewed with respect, I think that is completely acceptable.

    At the risk of appearing not to take this debate seriously enough, has anyone brought up the issue of all the dead, stuffed animal remains in the rest of the museum, or has that already been covered? After all, we can see living animals in zoos, and there are plenty of nature programmes on the TV, do we need these in the museum? Is it only the human animal that commands so much respect for its remains?

  122. As someone who hopes to be able to appreciate Britain’s museums firsthand soon, I wonder what on earth the complainers were thinking. We have PC fanatics here in the US who demand that depictions of timeless masterpieces of classical art such as Michaelangelo’s David and the Venus de Milo be covered up because (gasp) they’re “indecent”; have you stolen our village idiots?

    It’s belittling to the people who became the mummies to say to them, “you’re too ugly or too risque for people to see you”. Putting them in a special alcove for those who don’t wish to view them is one thing (and a good enough solution), but hiding them altogether is another.

    These people are a doorway to the past we’ve been fortunate enough to find, all because they went though mummification as a means to immortality. They should therefore be allowed to have it, and not as a blank shroud, but as the individual people they were. They have survived in this form to tell us “I was here, walking and breathing and real, not just some dry passage in a textbook.” Instead of hiding them just because someone is so petty that they only see nudity to be offended at, look at them and tell them how much richer your world is for their thousands-years’ journey.

  123. Dr Boris Wiseman

    Malcom Chapman’s post refers to the museum’s lengthy reflection on the issue of ethical display but does not explain or justify the museum’s choice to deal with the genuine issues at stake here by specifically covering up the remains. Surely this is a fairly arbitrary and culturally specific response; in effect the imposition of one group’s cultural practices (personal convictions?) on another group. There are surely less heavy-handed ways of dealing with the issues of display and ones that are more congruent with the educational purposes of a museum. The current approach doesn’t seem particularly enlightened.

  124. Christine Humber

    It may be advisable to remember rather than being prudish the Ancient Egyptian was broad-minded and displayed a great deal of their bodies without shame or embarrassment.
    Whilst it is admirable for Manchester to feel that the bodies/mummies should not be considered a ‘peep show’ and they should be returned to their original tombs as Zahi Hawass would like, humanity would loose a valuable tool in understanding the ancient past.
    Although it was considered important for the body to be preserved for the afterlife it must also be remembered that to keep the spirit alive the name of the deceased need be spoken. Surely we are aiding this by having the mummies displayed in a respectful manner, as they are now, with their name shown prominently. I am sure the name is read by most visitors to the museum; what better way of continuing the ancient’s wish never to be forgotten. Better by far than left in a tomb hidden from view with no knowledge of its occupant!
    Surely, we of the 21st century are protecting the bodies, not desecrating them or viewing them as our forefathers did in using them as ‘entertainment’ (mummy unwrapping of Victorian times), as an aphrodisiac or fire fuel!
    Please let us be sensible and realise that such an advanded society as the Ancient Egyptians would be only too happy to help us understand ‘life’ in the 21st century and wish to help us attain the superior existence they possessed.

    Christine Humber, WEA tutor in Egyptology, Kent

  125. Richard Cotton

    Please tell me this is an April Fool joke.
    The world is going mad. Cover up mummies?
    What next will the BM deck ‘Ginger’ the sand dried natural mummy in jeans and a T shirt.

    Take the covers off and ignore these bigots!

  126. Kelly Thompson

    I heard about this in the newspaper, I thought it was a joke. I never realised that they would actually do it. I love ancient Egypt and history in general. As a child I was fascinated with mummies and would spend ages looking at the remains of our ancestors. Wondering if what they were like, did they have brothers and sisters. By covering up the mummies are we actually giving them the respect they deserve…we have already removed them from their burial site and transported them thousands of miles. Today they are looked upon with respect and admiration, which was not a common view when they were removed from there burial site. By covering them up you are removing the feelings of connection we have with our ancestors. Us the general public whom are unable to pursue dreams of being in the scientific field of history, this is our only connection with our ancestors, why deny us that and the dreams of future generations. I suggest that the boffins who decided this ridiculous idea to actually talk to those who visit the museum and find out what they want.

  127. catherine

    I do have to say that displaying the dead is becoming increasingly a hot art related topic those days. Artists/People dont know what else to do to get the extra edge… the ‘shock’ factor.
    German artist Gregor Schneider is looking for a dying person to stage the death in an public exhibition.
    Guillermo Vargas Habacuc has left a dog to die as part of an exhibition.
    Gunther von Hagens ‘mummifies’ bodies for display in the exhibition ‘Bodies’.

    How much more do we need to know about death and the body? What does seeing those mummies really bring to what we already know? Despite, we now have photography and many othre means to show what a mummy looks like without having to display their remains. Why not ask Gunther to make wax works of mummies instead?

    Also, this practice infriges the religious beliefs of those concerned. And this is disrespectful. No one would display the body of a loved one that died recently. Why treat those mummies differently?
    No one gave them the choice to be displayed as such or not and they probably wouldnt have approved.
    Those mummies should go back where they came from and be left to rest where they were found.

    However in the case of bog bodies, the situation is a bit different since there’s no way of knowing what believes the person was holding. In which case, the preservation of the body becomes cruicial, as we need to look after what we have unearthed to keep it as we found it before our interference.

    Our fascination with death will probably never end, but we have to differenciate between death and macabre.

    Unless remains bring something new, I am not interested in seeing any more mummies. They’re all the same in the end, so leave them be.

  128. catherine

    once opened and as in the case of Tutankhammon, science can help finding what caused the death and help solve a mystery. But once our job is done, we should leave them where we found them.

  129. June Doye

    It is a great pity that such a shortsighted decision has been mooted with regard to covering mummies. Where will people not fortunate enough to visit the Egyptian Museum in Cairo go to see unwrapped mummies? Ok, other museums have uncovered mummies but why should people have to travel when there is a perfectly good collection of mummies in Manchester.

    It is, from what I read, supposed to be a decision for the Human Remains Panel as to whether the mummies are covered or not, however, it is quite evident that someone has already made the decision to cover them!

    I think the time has come for all this ‘political correctness’ to be replaced by ‘common sense’.

  130. Claire

    The whole idea of covering up the mummies is utterly ridiculous. Who wants to go to an exhibition on ancient egypt to look at a white sheet? The only way to educate people and to promote a greater understanding of the past such artifacts should be clearly displayed. It is not distasteful and frankly, if you are going to get upset by it, don’t go to the exhibition!

  131. I don’t really think that the mummies are going to be offended by us uncovering them. Mainly for the fact that they are dead, and therefore feel nothing.

    If you believe that they are upset, and thus think they should be uncovered, that’s your crazy belief and not mine. Don’t expect me to roll over and accept that. Arguing that they ‘would be’ upset is non-verifiable, and even if it were, surely those who are alive now, at this very moment, should get the final say on matters like this? Unless one believes in some form of divine retribution, its a moot point.

    Everyone’s going to die someday, and whether we like it or not our bodies are no longer our own post-death, however much we might wish they were, because there no longer is an ‘our’; there is simply matter. Flesh, meat, bone, blood, fluids, organs… nothing conscious. Thus, nothing to object to its being uncovered, burnt, thrown around, whatever.

    I think we should uncover the mummies, simply for the fact that I cannot think of a decent reason why we should cover them. Further, as perverse as it sounds, most people would secretly agree that death is fascinating, and by contemplating these extinct humans, we gain knowledge into the extent of decay that our own bodies might undergo if they had been treated like those on display.

    If nothing else, we should display the mummies to help us to fulfil our narcissistic urge to understand the fragility of our own lives.

  132. Beth Hawkin

    Who are they?

    “Official statement from The Manchester Museum..”

    and

    “All decisions relating to human remains at the Museum are made by the Human Remains Panel, and not by individual curators.”

    Would the officials please have the courtesy of naming themselves and similarly the composition of the Human Remains Panel be stated on the Museum website? Those making these decisions and statements should surely be seen to be responsible for them.

  133. catherine

    ‘I don’t really think that the mummies are going to be offended by us uncovering them. Mainly for the fact that they are dead, and therefore feel nothing.’

    It’s not about how dead mummies feel… Wot wuld one say if it was a loved one displayed as such? Ok those mummies relatives have long gone too, but that is not a reason to display them.

    They are dead. Let them rest in peace.

  134. carole

    “Wot wuld one say if it was a loved one displayed as such? Ok those mummies relatives have long gone too, but that is not a reason to display them.

    They are dead. Let them rest in peace.”

    Except we do have a very string reason to display them — because the mummies of these people and their artifacts are the only way we have of learning about them.

    If we just said — let them rest in peace (which of course assumes some sort of religious beliefs right at the start!) then we’d never excavate any human remains at all, never have the chance to study them and learn something about the society they came from, what they ate, how they lived and died.

    What we are coming across here is particular religious beliefs, and their particular definition of what respect is. I noted above that at least one person here wouldn’t want even animal remains displayed. We cannot respect everyones particular beliefs, that way madness lies. In my book, carefully excavating human remains in order to learn the maximum about these people, and displaying them in a way to explain to others what we have learnt is showing them appropriate respect. Leaving them in the ground, not trying to educate others as to what their society was like, that is the supreme disrespect.

  135. Visiting the museum today I was extremely dissapointed to see the mummy’s covered. There is no point of having them on show if you can’t see anything, the whole point of a museum is to show people artifacts that they have never seen before and covering them works contrary to this

  136. Peter Robinson

    I notice that the first entry in this blog was made on 7th May, and I write this at 10:00am UK time on 31st May. Over that time there have been 135 responses, most of which have called for the uncovering of the mummies in some form or other. Yet the Museum has suggested that a significant minority have asked for the mumies to be covered from view. Can I therefore respectfully ask the museum authorities to please publish, here on the website:
    1. How many respondents have contacted the museum in some form or another.
    2. what format these responses have been (comment cards left at the museum, responses via the blog, personal letters to members of the curatorial and directorial staff, etc., any other repsonse format).
    3. a breakdown of the comments – how many have responded for the policy, andhow many against.
    4. How long before the museum will act on the responses.
    5. What criteria the museum will take as reasons behind its action resulting from the responses.

    If the museum is seeking any sort of manpower to help analyse the data, I’d be only too willing to help, given I only live a few miles from the museum and do have analytical skills.

    Thank you

    Peter Robinson
    Poynton Egypt Group
    American Research Center in Egypt
    Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, Toronto, Canada) (International Trustee)

  137. What a silly idea. What is there to display in a covered mummy? Maybe at most there could be a warning at the entrance to the area they’re in saying people who would be offended by naked mummies should not enter. Even that’d be silly, but at least it will provide those with a fair warning and no further excuse to impose their views on everyone else.

  138. Fiona

    I am utterly dismayed to learn that the mummies have been covered up! Having visited the Mummies at the Musuem on numerous occassions, Lindow Man when he was displayed in the 80′s and most recently the Bodyworlds exhibition at MoSI I believe that each of the exhibitions are both educational and very valid in their own right.

    I did not feel that the display of human remains in any of the exhibitions was anything remotely macabre or gratuitous, and feel very strongly about the censorship that people are attempting to impose.

    My mum first took me to visit the mummies and Lindow man when i was around 6 years old, and from that experience I developed a keen interest in Egyptology and history. At the time my mum thought it was both interesting and educational for me to see the exhibits and I am very unhappy that now I might be denied the opportunity to share the same experience with my own son.

    Put quite simply, if the idea or the exhibition of human remains offends you – then DON’T go! I would hate to see the opinions of the few adhered to at the expense of the many who support the Musuem and the mummies.

    Finally, if the display of the mummies is so contentious then surely they should be repatraited (along with all the collections outside of Egypt)?

    “The Egyptians believed that the mummified body was the home for this soul or spirit. If the body was destroyed, the spirit might be lost. The idea of “spirit” was complex involving really three spirits: the ka, ba, and akh. The ka, a “double” of the person, would remain in the tomb and needed the offerings and objects there. The ba, or “soul”, was free to fly out of the tomb and return to it. And it was the akh, perhaps translated as “spirit”, which had to travel through the Underworld to the Final Judgment and entrance to the Afterlife. To the Egyptian, all three were essential.”

    Source: http://www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmnh/mummies.htm

    Despite this belief, mummies were cut up, their tombs robbed and remains removed to far away lands to satisfy the curiosity of the rich, surely all that is left now is the remains – negating the argument of “ethical display?”

    Finally, I think that only covering some of the mummies is a futile exercise – surely it should be an all or nothing approach? To only cover three mummies and leave the others uncovered seems rather pointless, other that to disappoint people or provoke debate?

  139. Andrew

    You have provoked a debate which is good but the long term shrouding of the three mummies is truly an unenlightened and hypocritical idea. If you are going the shrouding route you are on a slippery slope that won’t leave much of a collection. Make a enlightened stand for science, knowledge and learning!

  140. I became a student of Ancient History and archaeology at university after being inspired as a teenager by an unwrapped Mummy. The details retained by the process of Mummification, including her dyed red hair and eyelashes made history real to my class and our shared similarities as human beings, evident most clearly in an unwrapped Mummy, created and fueled my love of history.

    At MOST, Manchester should consider moving the uncovered Mummys to a private room that the squeamish can avoid, but the Manchester Museum has an obligation to allow future generations to continue to learn from our past. People who are likely to be offended by unwrapped Mummy’s have the CHOICE to avoid that part of the exhibit, but why does Manchester Museum, as a guardian of History, feel that it has the right to deny the rest of us the chance to view and learn from that history?

    Give us the option of making our own choices.

    Elisabeth,
    Sydney, Australia

  141. toni

    The debate regarding the covering of the un-rapped mummies at the Manchester museum, was brought to my attention at a Egypt Society group meeting.
    I myself am a new student of Egyptology, but have always been interested in anything and everything Egyptian.
    I find this situation so ridiculous that I can not believe it has come to this stage.
    If the museum feels that the site of seeing bodies, rapped, un rapped or found in their natural state, would offend the viewing and paying public that visits the museum. They should display warning signs before entering the exhibition. The public can then make their own opinions of whether to enter or not.
    And I disagree that the museum have only decided to cover up these particular mummies, and left other still on full display, such as the Lindow man. A body is a body……If anyone is going to be offended by seeing a mummified body of an Ancient Egyptian that was given a traditional burial of their time…. then surly they would be even more offended by seeing a man who has been found, after being sacrificed and left to be mummified of naturally causes.
    I strongly recommend that the museum considers putting the mummies back on full display to avoid anymore more ridiculous press and debate. And to let the individual viewing public make their own choice to see them or not!!!

    Toni hayhurst – St Helens.

  142. Bob Partridge

    I see from the Curator’s update that the covering of the mummies was discussed at a recent meeting.

    I would have thought that analysing the responses to the covering on the web site and in the museum would not be a task that would take over long (a day or so of work at the absolute most …and I too am prepared to offer my analytical skills to the museum, that was my main job).

    The overall majority opinion of the public on this now
    apparently “temporary” covering, intended specifially to encourage a response is, however, perfectly clear to even the least analyitical person.

    I think the museum should revert the display of mummies back to how it was immediately, not wait for a report “towards the end of the year”.

    The opinions and the useful comments can be used to determine the future display, but why keep the mummies covered over now?

    The museum has put already put up a “Warning ” sign at either end of the gallery (which was something suggested by many of the people writing to the web site) so no one can now say they came across the mummies without being warned any more (if indeed that was a major problem for most visitors in the first place).

    It is interesting that other UK museums are putting mummies back on display and CT scans and displays of mummies, based on Manchester’s former excellent example, continue around the world, with a mummy from Oxford being the latest example.

    Comments made from the museum about the public wanting “naked” mummies covered over, have given the very wrong impression, not helped by press headlines, that naked mummes were actually on display, which has never been the case. Even Dr Zahi Hawass has been quoted in the Press as agreeing to the covering, but this was in response to the question to him about “naked” mummies. He now knows the position and that the mummies in Manchester have always been displayed with no less sensitivity and care as those on display in Egypt.

    Bob Partridge
    Editor
    “Ancient Egypt” magazine

  143. Janet Shepherd

    What sad times we live in – when censorship takes control. If you dont like mummies you dont enter the mummy room in a museum. They are not macabre and we are not disrepectful in wanting to look on ancient faces. After all these people were searching for immortality. Hopefully the desire to learn and to teach and inspire children is still alive and well with some people. To cover the mummies completely is madness and as many other people suggest they may as well be removed completely. It is insulting to museum visitors that have often travelled many miles to see this fine collection that ‘we the public’ are not allowed the choice of viewing these mummies. Is this another example of ‘academic access only’.

    Janet Shepherd
    Chairman. Sussex Egyptology Society

  144. Hugh Polehampton

    1. For me, a museum exists to provide education, understanding and information about the past. The discovery of mummies allows us to see and experience people from the past with all their individuality, physical characteristics and diseases evident. I have found the uncovered body of Asru extremely moving as it helped me to imagine her life and what life was like in her lifetime and to realise the similarities and differences between her time and my own and between her and me. A covered mummy has no point and the coffin might just as well be empty. It is not giving greater respect to the dead to show a covered up mummy rather than an uncovered one, as the original purpose of the mummification was that the body should lie in perpetuity in its coffin in its tomb and not be displayed in a museum thousands of miles distant. Once mummies and coffins are moved from their original location, I think we are saying that history, scholarship, education and shere human curiosity take precedence over the ancient religious rites. Asru uncovered communicates directly with me in a way that no other medium can. Providing the context of the display is respectful and historically accurate as I feel the uncovered body of Asru was previously then I am in favour of mummies being uncovered. If they are displayed purely for shock and sensation then I am not in favour. For me, the uncovered head of Ramses II in the Cairo Museum still exudes amazing power and I would still want to be able to see this. I can’t believe that Ramses II would want to throw up the opportunity of impressing his power upon viewers some three thousand years after his death. After all what was the purpose of Abu Simbel if not that.

  145. Lesley Easterman

    I had understood that changes would be made in the display of the Egyptian collection – for which the Museum is held in high regard – after a period of public consultation. So I am surprised that the mummies are now covered, and especially so when the much publicised Lindow Man is on display in the Museum.
    Coming from a culture where the after-life was considered of overwhelming importance there should surely be celebration that these mummies are still in existence. That their existence has led us to increased understanding of their lives and their health must surely be acknowledged as positive on both sides.
    The Egyptian collection has be displayed in such a way as to encourage interest in, and learning of a successful civilisation. The technique of mummification was one of the achievements of that civilisation, and should therefore be displayed in no different a way than other exhibits from Ancient Egypt.

  146. Dave Woodcock

    We visited the Eygyptology collection this week with 90 school children. I was massively disappointed that the uncovered mummies had been covered up. I had previously explained to the children that there were unwrapped mummies and that they were fascinating to see. (I have previously visited three times where the mummies were uncovered)

    As it is really difficult for primary aged children to grasp ancient history, we chose Manchester museum so that they could experience these truly wonderful exhibits. When mummies are covered, they are just mummies to a nine year old. If they are uncovered they are real people who really lived and are respected as such.

    History is about people, and people die. Why are you trying to protect visitors from the fact? I wonder how many complaints the museum received to prompt such an ‘experiment’

    Please stop contributing to the nanny state that overpowers us all. If the bureaucrats are so worried about protecting public interest, put up a disclaimer at the start of the gallery. I genuinely thought that the museum had more common sense.

  147. Hilary Forrest

    The last comment before this one sums up what appears to be the most widely expressed view. surely the museum authorities have had time to take in popular opinion, and to act upon it. Is it too much to hope that common sense has already prevailed and that Asru and her colleagues are once again on proper view? As someone earlier said, the display was never disrespectful, but it was a highlight of the museum for so many people.

  148. Audrey Carter

    Audrey Carter

    It is quite clear that most of the comments on this site are unhappy about the mummies being covered up and comment no. 146 sums up our reasons excellently. Can we now have more information from the Museum staff as to when any further consultation meetings like the one I attended in April are due to take place. Thanks.

  149. June Astbury

    I would like to add my thoughts of disgust at covering the mummies in the Manchester Musium. How can so few assume to have the oppinion of so many and get it wrong. Please explain the difference of a dead mummy and a dead Lindow Man and of course the answer is none. Then why differentiate except to carry out some individuals pet policy.

  150. karen

    i went to the museum on monday with my freind she has learing disability as well being disabuled and was very up set
    she see asru as a freind as do i and if that make’s us wird then so be it take the rapings off

  151. Dave Howlett

    (cross posted from another entry, to ensure my views are available to those who read all articles on this matter rather than just the one)

    I visited the museum yesterday, and I believe it is a step too far to cover the mummies – especially in white covers which are jarring and do not “fit” visually with the exhibition as a whole. This is most noticeably a detriment to the egyptology exhibition in the case of the mummified child – whereas the other two mummies were displayed in some degree of context, with their sarcophagi visible, this mummy was merely covered up completely but outside of context – it might as well have been a bundle of staw covered by sheets. Furthermore, allowing the bodies to be visible would allow the public to see the skill with which these bodies have been preserved, as well as realise all the more strongly that they *are* human remains, and thus elicit a feeling of reverence which may be unconsciously lacking when no obvious signs of this fact are in evidence.

  152. Pingback: Archaeology Magazine Blog - Beyond Stone and Bone » Hiding Mummies

  153. karen

    the covers are still on the mummy’s
    please take them off

  154. Bob Partridge

    I am now pleased to see that the Museum has reacted to the many comments made both in the museum and on the museum’s web site and that two of the mummies have now been uncovered, reverting almost to the way they were displayed before.

    The museum is still asking for public feedback, which is good and there is the implication that the display might still change depending on the reaction. I have one concern here, in that people tend not to necessarily comment or react to displays that they are happy with and that any feed-back received from now on, might be biased in favour of those who do not like mummies on display.

    Personally I would like to see than hands of Asru uncovered if at all possible, for, with no suitable explanation, or photo of the mummy on display, it is clear from my recent visit to the museum that visitors are now wondering what the large lump under the wrappings are (Asru’s hands are in front of her body, but few visitors will know this).

    I also think it is a great shame that the museum has now lost the child mummy from Stoneyhurst College. This is one of the best preserved child mummies to survive and they are very rare. I hope Stonyhurst will be able to display the mummy, or find a new hone for it.

    The decision to cover the mummies caused concern and unfavourable comment, from not just the public in the UK but literally all around the world and this is reflected in the many comments on the web site. Manchester’s Egyptian collection is truly of national and international importance and is perhaps better known than the museum realised.

    Interestingly, museums in Liverpool, Bolton, and most recently Leeds, are getting much good publicity re their uncovered mummies and new and revised displays and research.

    I hope the museum can now use all this positive feedback to help plan the new Egyptian display in the coming years and that Asru will continue to face the visitors as she has done for the last two hundred years.

    Bob Partridge
    Editor Ancient Egypt magazine
    Chairman, Manchester Ancient Egypt Society

  155. egyptmanchester

    Hi Bob

    Many thanks for your post. We discussed at length uncovering Asru’s hands, as this was the preferred option, but in the end we had to leave them covered because of their loication on Asru’s body, and the difficulties of revealing them whilst keeping her torso covered.

    The Stonyhurst mummy has been due for return for awhile. I’m not sure what their plans are for the mummy.

  156. Bob Partridge

    OK… my final post on this subject (!)

    I do understand the problems with Asru and it is nice to be able to see her again, which I did yesterday.

    The covering still looks a little odd to my mind and it took me a while to work out why.

    I don’t know what sort of material is used to cover Asru (is it linen?) but is just looks too new and does not fit. The Egyptian Museum in Cairo faced the same problem when redisplaying the royal mummies (which also have mainly just heads and feet exposed) and they decided to use some some antique linen, which does look a lot better.

    Perhaps when the gallery is redisplayed and Asru needs to be moved, the opportunity could be taken to find some suitable linen, which hopefully the musem will have in its reserve collection.

    And finally, perhaps when the new gallery has been finished, the Museum might like to consider a guide book, or some publication on the collection, which is really long overdue.

  157. bernard mcauliffe

    I have only recently become aware of this controversy after reading an article in” Ancient Egypt”, having looked arround the mummey room at the Cairo museum it sadend me to see these ancient kings who where responsible for some of the most beautiful art and architecture striped of there dignity by the cold hand of academia. There friends and children mourned them as we mourn our loved ones, let them rest in peace, without all and sundry gawping at them. B Mc Auliffe.

  158. STEPHANIE

    UHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!?????????????????

  159. Jean S

    I was also in favour of displaying mummies to the general public -until i went to the Cairo Museum – as other posters have noted – people giggle and laugh, make rude remarks, some let their chidren run up and down shouting at the top of their voices, people knock on the glass and so on. I can’t go into the mummy room anymore – the sight of rulers such as Rameses II and his father Seti I being gawked at and laughed at turns my stomach.
    But if they have to be displayed, cover them as has been done at the Cairo museum – and leave just their faces and extremities for the curious to gawk at.
    I agree with Nicole Hansen – they need to be returned to their tombs – stripped of their valuables as they are they would probably be left in peace.

  160. I visited the museum a few years ago when my son who would have been around 8 years old at the time was being taught about ancient Egypt and we saw the unwrapped mummy of Asru.

    We visited again a week ago and saw the mummy covered in some kind of sheet.

    I thought at the time, “I can’t remember this last time we visited” and presumed it was some kind of measure to preserve the specimen.

    However, having visited the site this evening and realised that it is some sort of “respect” issue… the mind boggles.

    If that is the problem, take the mummy from the museum and re-inter it where it was found.

    Either leave a person to RIP or display them for all to see in a museum… displaying their body in a museum but covering the parts between their chin and their toes is hardly “respect”.

    Get a grip.

  161. P.S. My donation at the entry/exit would have been less if I had known about this.

  162. Lisa

    I would like to respond to Adam and Keeli Cadwells statement that ‘in displaying mummies we are providing the individual what they wanted to achieve in death’ (to be known and recognized and never forgotten). Actually, the purpose of mummification was to preserve the body as close to what it had been in life so that the dead person would be recognised by Anubis at the weighing of the heart ceremony and would ultimately be able to life forever in the aterlife with Osiris etc etc. Ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife just like many religions today hold the belief that there is something after death. I very much doubt that Ancient Egyptians thought for one second that thousands of years later they would be in glass cases being stared at. Also, Adam and Keeli, you talk about how ‘even the Victorians weren’t so abashed’ do you know that it was the Victorians who had ‘mummy unwrapping parties and used the exposed body as kindling?

    You do not need to show a body for it to be educational. The scans of the mummies at Weston Park Museum which were displayed next to the case (before the redevelopment) showed far more about how they had lived and died that could be gleaned from just exposing the body.

    Tsk tsk..

  163. Adam and Keeli Cadwell

    In response to Lisa:
    We are fully aware of the intentions ancient Egyptians had in mummifying their dead. And mummification didn’t take place so a “dead person would be recognised by Anubis at the weighing of the heart ceremony.” The body needed to remain intact so that the ka and ba could also recognize the body, and after death, life continues, thus the need for an whole body and things like ka statues; it’s the only way one could receive spiritual sustenance. It was your link to the earthly plane. To the ancient Egyptians, the body was just as important as anything else that made up their being. What we are implying is that people know the individual, by name, and by appearance, thus giving them immortality. Without a name, you don’t exist. Why do you suppose the ancient Egyptians had an obsession with the proliferation of their names?
    And yes, “even the Victorians wouldn’t be so abashed” is in reference to how silly the whole notion is. Surely you are aware that the ancient Egyptians weren’t exactly what one would call “prudish,” hence our comments on applying 21st century standards of decency to an ancient person with different cultural norms. The ghastly things Victorians did to ancient Egyptian mummies is completely irrelevant to the statement, although I guess the sentiment of the statement wasn’t so clear to you.
    And as for you pointing out Weston Park Museum’s wonderful scientific approach – the last time I checked, Djedma’atiuesankh was standing up instead of laying down against advice on preservation, and there had been visible damage done to her cartonnage since the renovation, and I (Adam) would know because I spent ages staring at the coffin to translate the text for the museum. Maybe that has changed since I visited, but I doubt it. And scans may be able to tell you about the individual during life, but does it give you a real appreciation for those who had a skill in preserving people in death? Djedma’at has never been completely unwrapped, however, we are not suggesting for one minute to do so and put her on display. What we are suggesting is that already unwrapped mummies should be on display in order for visitors to gain a true appreciation for the skills of embalming, and actually being able to see the features of a once living human being, thus giving more impact to the encounter. We are pleased to see Manchester Museum has come to some sort of reasonable arrangement.
    I hope that clears things up for you. :-)

  164. Joseph

    I think this is a good move personally.

    The public display of Mummies is utterly disrespectful to the mummies themselves. Some of these mummies were gods and what is most important, people! Not only do we have the permission to take all their goods out of their tombs but we even go as far as to unwrap them and display them out like a carnivals “wonder of the world”. Through our chase for knowledge of the glorious Egyptian people, we forget that in the process we are spitting on their entire ideas of afterlife, and at how they perceived the world. One will never learn anything about a people, if you cant put yourself on their level. And on their level they would not want to be put on display, its messing with their afterlife.

    Think about it. What if Pope John Paul II or JFK or Gandhi somehow managed to be mummified and was displayed in a glass case for everyone to see. There would be an absolute uproar. Just because someone is 3000 years older doesn’t make it any less wrong.

    Without respect there can be no understanding.
    You might be able to understand the process of mummification in the way we treat mummies now but you wont quite be able to understand their unique view of the world, which is much more important.

  165. hello i just want to say i really enjoyed the exhibits.
    some people may not like them and find them disrespectful. i think its nice to see, so fascinating! i dont think couples and people who were buried together should be split up though. and unwrap a few of them, so we can observe more and learn more. but i think most should be kept wrapped and preserved. excellent and also excellent that photography is allowed.

    lara x

  166. sci

    Its just a study of our past. W learn alot from it and incorporate things from it to make our life better.

    Thanks.
    Shaun T Insanity

  167. egyptmanchester

    Dear Des

    Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately I am unable to upload it to the blog as it contains a four letter word!

    All the best

    Karen

  168. Sid Stone

    Dear Joseph of June 26, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    What mummies in Manchester were gods? I think you’re treading off the edge of liminal egyptology there.

    Stop your fantasies about Pope John Paul II or JFK or Gandhi being in a glass case – go to Russia and see Lenin. Knock yourself out!

  169. Then again, the opposite could be true. – If it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that he’s evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he’s an underachiever. – Woody Allen Born 1935

  170. I really enjoyed reading your blog post here. It was very informative and I also digg the way you write! Keep it up and I’ll be back to read more in the future.

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  171. Fleur Berthelot

    A ce sujet, a propos d’Académie Française, ll parait que le brillant libraire Gégé Collard, qui tient la librairie Griffe Noire, se présente pour être académicien !!!. Je pense que ça offrirait un second élan à la noble institution, foi de Saint Maurien. Non?

  172. Love the photo showing the mummy. Wish I’d been there to see it uncovered! Very much hope we can visit the museum on one of our archaeological tours in the future.

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