Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: The Dark Value of Criminal Bodies: Context, Consent, and the Sale of John Parker's Skull
Authors: McCorristine, S
First Published: 9-Feb-2015
Publisher: Ubiquity Press for British Library
Citation: Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies, 13 (1) 2, pp. 1-7, 2015
Abstract: The recent sale of a human skull at an auction in Sussex should raise ethical concerns. Whenever human body parts are sold or put in a glass case and displayed for public view people should be provided with context and extensively informed about what they see. The gaze is never innocent, and to ignore the particular journeys that body parts take into auction rooms, anatomy departments, and museums is to be complicit in acts of historical injustice. In this case the skull was that of John Parker, who was executed by hanging in 1813. The likelihood that this was illicitly obtained by medical professionals means that the sale of the skull at auction two hundred years later is fraught with ethical problems. Along with a discussion of context, fragments like Parker’s skull must therefore also become part of a debate about consent. Issues of context and consent can help us think about the display of human remains in museums in a manner that is intimate and ‘disturbingly informative’ (Mütter Museum 2014). However, the sale of Parker’s skull – described as an ‘antique piece’ in the press coverage (BBC News 2014) – is a reminder that the global marketplace in objectified body parts is disturbing in quite a different manner.
DOI Link: 10.5334/jcms.1021220
ISSN: 2049-4572
eISSN: 1364-0429
Version: Publisher Version
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s). (CC BY 3.0) (
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, School of Archaeology and Ancient History

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
106-984-1-PB.pdfPublished (publisher PDF)2.3 MBAdobe PDFView/Open

Items in LRA are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.