We are reviewing the archaeology collection
in order to gain a wider understanding of what we hold in our stores, raise the profile of the objects and improve their use. Your views on our collection are important. Take a look at some of the objects we’re reviewing and the types of questions that curators have to consider. What would you do?
Box of Bronze Age axeheads
These axe heads show how axe technology evolved during the Bronze Age. There is limited information about where these were discovered and how the museum acquired them. They were once part of a loan scheme for schools and an educational handling collection.
Using objects in museum handling sessions enables participants to discover how objects feel, their weight, what they are made from, and how they were made.
Museums aim to preserve collections for current and future generations. Objects used for handling are more likely to have a shorter life span due to the increased risk of damage and wear. Does this matter, as there are learning benefits from handling objects? Should we use objects for handling?
Finds from Afar
Prehistoric tool from Denmark, R1934/106
The prehistoric tools from Denmark have been in the collection for over 90 years and have not been investigated since then. In total there are six boxes of stone and flint tools from Denmark in the archaeology collection.
Many of the objects in the archaeology collections that were discovered outside Brighton & Hove were donated to the museum during the first quarter of the 20th century. Some are part of large collections donated to the museum by individual collectors. How significant are these objects to the history of the museum?
Would they be more accessible for researchers, and more feasible for public display, if they were transferred to museums in the areas where they were found or should some or all remain in the collection here?
This skull fragment was discovered in a fishing net, off the coast of Ovingdean in 1935. It was initially thought to be late Bronze Age, around 3,000 years old. The two circular holes were considered to be evidence of trepanning, a medical procedure undertaken by scraping through the skull surface with flint tools, possibly to let infection or spirits out. Trepanning is rarely seen in the prehistoric archaeological record.
Recent analysis has shown that the holes were caused by a disease known as biparietal thinning and that the skull is not prehistoric but probably dates from between 1636 and 1677.
Skull fragment discovered in a fishing net HA230245
Keeping human remains in our collection helps us to understand about our ancestors. Advancing research techniques reveal information about age, diet, disease, genetics and migratory patterns.
However the debate concerning the re-burial of human remains from museum collections is becoming more prominent. If human remains have not been researched or displayed for long periods, should they remain in the archaeology collection even if there is still much that could be learnt from them? If the skull fragment had been buried following initial examination, new understanding about its age and pathology may never have been discovered.
What should we do with the human remains in our collection?
What would you do?
Let us know what you think. You can visit the small display Reviewing our Archaeology Collection which is located at the entrance to Brighton History Centre in Brighton Museum until March 2011 where you can leave your comments. Or you can email your views to email@example.com