Broadly, ethics are standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do. Although morality is an age-old philosophical concept, ethics have become a particularly important concern in recent decades as a result to changing attitudes towards the use of human remains, the emphasis on consent and repatriation of indigenous artifacts from western museums. Ethical considerations may concern: non-maleficence, respect, solidarity and beneficence.
Sensitivity, dignity and respect for the persons, communities and culture must be paramount to how we display and discuss the objects.
One of the objects in our exhibition is a human remains specimen and we have an artifact relating to colonial histories, therefore it is important we show sensitivity, cultural understanding and compassion for the feelings of individuals and communities; making the context of the objects clear and ensuring representation of different religious, spiritual and cultural perspectives. The human tissue act and other ethics legislation specify consent in the display and use of human, this is problematic in the case of the Suicidal Bullet Wound as it is unclear if consent was gained. Therefore, we must ensure we are displaying the object appropriately, for educational purpose and with respect for the deceased.
Regarding the Hazda necklace, this object raises issues of colonial legacies in Western collections. It was collected and presented in London by a Western Anthropologist, and we see this object today through this lens rather than hearing the voice of the Hadza. Although he did fieldwork with them and got to know them for a long time, his perception of the object might be biased or inaccurate.
Additionally, we recognise that there is limited information on some of these objects therefore it is possible that any statements we make on the website may not be entirely accurate, therefore we have tried to avoid assertive statements so that we are not projecting our opinions onto the audience.
If you are interested in learning more about exhibition ethics or social justice in museums have a look at:
Nightingale E. & R. Sandell. 2017. Museums, Equality and Social Justice. London: Routledge.
Gazi, A., 2014. Exhibition Ethics – An Overview of Major Issues. Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies, 12(1), p.Art. 4