Aggregated News

a photo of Penn Museum

For nearly 2 centuries, the skulls of 20 Black people who died in Philadelphia have formed part of the Morton Cranial Collection, now housed at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Most of the skulls were collected by physical anthropologist Samuel Morton, who in the 1830s and ’40s amassed hundreds of them for studies he designed to identify supposed biological racial differences and scientifically prove what he believed to be the inferiority of nonwhite people. On 3 February, the museum plans to lay the crania of 19 of the Black Philadelphians in the collection to rest in a historically Black cemetery. “After 200 years of being on display and subject to scientific testing, these individuals deserve an interment with all the dignity and respect that we can give them,” says Penn Museum Director Christopher Woods. “They don’t belong in the museum.”

But a self-identified descendant community group and multiple anthropologists say the museum has not lived up to its promise to repatriate the remains and has failed to do sufficient archival research into the identities of...