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Title: Collecting and interpreting human skulls and hair in late Nineteenth Century London : passing fables & comparative readings at The Wildgoose Memorial Library : an artist's response to the DCMS Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums (2005)
Author: Wildgoose, Jane
ISNI:       0000 0004 5923 2770
Awarding Body: Kingston University
Current Institution: Kingston University
Date of Award: 2015
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Abstract:
This practice-based doctoral research project is an artist’s response to the ‘unique status’ ascribed to human remains in the DCMS Guidance for the Care of Human Remains in Museums (2005): as objects, in scientific, medical/anthropological contexts, or subjects, which may be understood in associative, symbolic and/or emotional ways. It is concerned with the circumstances in which human remains were collected and interpreted in the past, and with the legacies of historical practice regarding their presence in museum collections today. Overall, it aims to contribute to public engagement concerning these issues. Taking the form of a Comparative Study the project focuses on the late nineteenth century, when human skulls were collected in great numbers for comparative anatomical and anthropological research, while in wider society the fashion for incorporating human hair into mourning artefacts became ubiquitous following the death of Prince Albert in 1861. William Henry Flower’s craniological work at the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, where he amassed a vast collection of human skulls that he interpreted according to theories of racial “type” (in which hair was identified as an important distinguishing characteristic), is investigated, and its legacy reviewed. His scientific objectification of human remains is presented for comparison, in parallel, with the emotional and associative significance popularly attributed to mourning hairwork, evidenced in accompanying documentation, contemporary diaries, literature, and hairworkers’ manuals. Combining inter-related historical, archival- and object-based research with subjective and intuitive elements in my practice, a synthesis of the artistic and academic is developed in the production of a new “archive” of The Wildgoose Memorial Library - my collection of found and made objects, photographs, documents and books that takes a central place in my practice. Victorian hairworking skills are researched, and a new piece of commemorative hairwork devised and made as the focus for a site-specific presentation of this archive at the Crypt Gallery St. Pancras, in which a new approach to public engagement is implemented and tested, concerning the legacy and special status of human remains in museum collections today.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.682205  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Art and design ; History of art, architecture and design ; Library and information management
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