Marselis, Randi. ‘On Not Showing Scalps: Human Remains and Multisited Debate at the National Museum of Denmark’. Museum Anthropology, vol. 39, no. 1, 2016, pp. 20–34.
Museums are increasingly taking the cultural values of source communities into account in their representational strategies, and that means that they now face the challenge of explaining to their publics how social responsibility toward distant source communities informs the choices each museum makes. This article examines how the National Museum of Denmark attempted to inform and discuss with the Danish public the museum’s decision to not exhibit scalps in their temporary exhibition on Native American culture, Powwow: We Dance, We’re Alive. Building on the new, contingent museum ethics proposed by Janet Marstine, the editor of the Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics, I show how the museum succeeded in engaging users in questions of museum ethics. However, this specific debate on human remains in museums developed into an encounter between a global, museological discourse on the responsibility of museum institutions toward indigenous groups and a common discourse in Danish political debates that views consideration toward the sensibilities of specific ethnic groups as a threat toward free speech and rational knowledge.