In Give Me My Father’s Body, Kenn Harper tells the story of Minik, a young Inuk, who struggles to find his place in the world after he is removed from his home in Greenland. Harper details the struggles Minik faced while trying to reclaim his father’s body from the Museum of Natural History and the overall unethical behavior of the museum’s professionals. While the ethical issues discussed in the book are numerous, are they the same ethical issues museums are still dealing with today?
I talked with Brian Alexander, professor of museum administration at the Cooperstown Graduate Program, to discuss how advancements in technology and the demand to diversify will change the way in which museums deal with ethical questions. He talked about the importance of finding balance and accepting that as the world changes, so too will ethical issues. While code of ethics exist to help guide museums, it has been the experience of Professor Alexander that museum professionals must decide for themselves what constitutes acting in an ethical way. He stressed that regardless of the decisions made, museum professionals must not sacrifice the integrity of the institution.
Fortunately, laws governing the ethical treatment and repatriation of human remains, have helped decrease the issues found in Give Me My Father’s Body, but due to advancements in technology and a demand to see more diversity in museums, new ethical issues are bound to arise. What are some ethical concerns that may arise in this new diverse and digital age?