Accepted Paper:

One of Us? Navigating 'rehumanisation' questions in the depiction and display of ancient Egyptians from the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum  
Kathryn Smith (Liverpool John Moores University)Caroline Wilkinson (Liverpool John Moores University)Mark Roughley (Liverpool John Moores University)Juan Garcia (Johns Hopkins University)Sanchita Balachandran (Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum)

Paper short abstract:

This paper considers how innovative scientific and curatorial approaches have figured in attempts to 'rehumanise' two ancient Egyptian individuals for display at Johns Hopkins University, whilst encouraging critical interrogation of how we construct knowledge at the interface of art and science.

Paper long abstract:

For professionals engaging with collections holding human remains, responsible and respectful stewardship has demanded close attention in recent years, particularly in the context of repatriation claims. But what of human remains for which there is little or no demand for repatriation, and which lend themselves to highly aesthetic treatment? In the context of recent exhibitions and reinvestment in ancient Egyptian galleries in local/regional museums in the UK, it appears that exhibiting such artefacts continues to capture the popular imagination, and lend cultural cachet to the institutions concerned. What many of these new initiatives have in common is the utilisation of sophisticated imaging technologies to create digital representations of human remains and related artefacts. Claims made for these technologies centre on their non-invasive - and therefore ostensibly more ethically acceptable - affordances: they permit the exploration, analysis and reconstruction of artefacts, particularly mummies, in ways that not only conserve the material integrity of these artefacts, but also allow for new display considerations and public engagement opportunities.

This paper focuses on the facial depictions of two ancient Egyptian individuals who have been closely associated with the history of Johns Hopkins University since the early twentieth century. Carried out by LJMU's Face Lab in close consultation with an interdisciplinary team at Johns Hopkins, we consider how scientific technology, digital imaging and critically-engaged exhibition design complicate attempts to render human remains more 'recognizably human', and what might be at stake, for exhibition makers and visitors alike, in projecting contemporary ideas onto past people.

Panel P080
Depiction of the Dead: ethical challenges and cognitive bias