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Exhibition view of the Mummy Room

Human Remains Research Project

Evaluating visitor responses to the display of human remains at the Museum

About the project

This research project seeks to understand better different publics attitudes and responses to the display of human remains at the Chau Chak Wing Museum, with a particular focus on Museum visitors and Egyptian communities (in Australia’s diaspora, in Egypt, and elsewhere.

200 visitors were invited to complete an online survey upon their departure of the Museum between July and November 2022. The questions, which were predominantly qualitative and naturalistic in nature, aimed to capture the way visitors engaged with, reacted, and responded to the curation and display of human remains in physical and 3D visual formats within the Museum’s exhibitions. This component of the research was approved by the University of Sydney's Human Research Ethics Committee. Project No. 2022/379.

Concurrently, we are working closely with Egyptian communities to re-think the display, interpretation and presentation of Egypt’s culturally dispersed heritage; a key aspect of which includes ancient Egyptian mummified human remains. 

What we will do with the results

The data gathered from this research project will help set new culturally specific guidelines on the display, care, treatment and interpretation of all human remains in the Museum's collection, as well as helping to inform future exhibitions and programmes.

We will also present and publish on the many different aspects of the research across a variety of platforms, including conferences and other forms of public presentation, peer reviewed journals and the media. 

Research team

This is a collaborative project comprising: 

Internal investigators
PI: Dr Melanie Pitkin, Senior Curator, Nicholson Collection
Co-I: Candace Richards, Assistant Curator, Nicholson Collection
Sabrina Baron, Volunteer, Nicholson Collection

External investigators
Professor Ronika Power, Macquarie University
Jacinta Carruthers, Macquarie University
Dr Rafie Cecilia, University College London

This project has been approved by the University of Sydney's Human Research Ethics Committee. Project No. 2022/379

Presentations and Publications

  • M. Pitkin 'Dialogues on display: Centring visitors & source communities in discussions regarding human remains in museums' Australian Museums and Galleries Association National Conference, 16-19 May 2023. 
  • M. Pitkin 'An Ethical Conundrum? Egyptian mummified human remains in Australia' History Teachers Association State Conference, 13-14 Jul 2023. 

Header image: The Mummy Room at the Chau Chak Wing Museum

Melanie Louise Pitkin

Senior Curator, Nicholson Collection