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Durham e-Theses
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Measuring the impact of research access for human skeletal remains stored in English museum contexts.

HUGHES, SIMON,JOHN (2022) Measuring the impact of research access for human skeletal remains stored in English museum contexts. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis evaluates the relationship between research and the preservation of skeletal remains stored in English museums, through the lens of researcher access to those collections. Preservation is an important issue in archaeology; however, it is under-represented in the bioarchaeological literature. This has led to a lack of understanding regarding the factors that most affect the preservation of human remains. Few studies have explored the impact of post-excavation factors on the preservation of human remains, and this study was proposed to address this shortage. The primary aim of this study was to assess to what extent research causes changes to the condition of skeletal remains, and whether the information we gain from research is balanced against the potential damage it may cause.
To achieve this aim, a new methodology was developed that involved the creation of a retrospective baseline condition assessment of the skeletal remains. Utilising this retrospective assessment enabled the change in preservation over time to be calculated without the need for a longitudinal study. The second aim was to evaluate other potential causes of deterioration to see if any had a greater impact than research through access. Where other factors affecting deterioration were discovered, their significance was discussed, as were the repercussions for museum storage and research.
The data collected from holdings of skeletal remains in institutions outside of London, showed that whilst research access did have an impact on the preservation of the skeletal remains studied, this impact was to a lesser degree than other factors evaluated in this research. Predominantly, the start (or retrospective baseline) preservation of the skeletal remains and the quality of the museum storage were the most significant factors that affected the preservation of the remains.
This thesis highlights the problems we, as researchers, as well as the skeletal remains we curate, could potentially face in the future. It recommends that greater consideration be given to the preservation of skeletal remains that are curated. Funding overall needs to be increased, whether this is through core government funding or an alternative source. Furthermore, planning for long term storage of skeletal collections is essential. The quality of museum storage and the amount of space available for storage must also be addressed, as these are significant issues in the long-term preservation and conservation of skeletal remains.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Human Remains; Preservation; Museum
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:23 Feb 2022 14:40

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