Finding Skeletons in Our Closets: Legacy Collections and Repatriation.

Author(s): Chelsea Meloche

Year: 2017


Contemporary standards of collections management ensure that materials collected during archaeological fieldwork are well-documented, provenienced, and catalogued within a database for future research purposes. These standards have come to be crucial to contemporary archaeological practice, however, this was not always the case. Historically, certain objects were often considered more important than a collection as a whole. This resulted in poorly documented collections, with mis-cataloged, incorrectly provenienced, or missing items. Since they continue to occupy a large part of contemporary repositories, these so-called ‘legacy collections’ present a unique set of collections management issues. Their minimal standards of documentation become particularly problematic in the context of repatriation requests. This presentation will examine these issues in the case of the Rickley collection at the University of Windsor. By recounting the excavation, curation, re-discovery and repatriation of the collection, I will present this case as an example of the complications that can arise when legacy collections become the focus of a repatriation request. In doing so, I will reflect on the implications of dealing with historical collections in contemporary repatriation cases, the current efforts underway to attend to these issues, and the importance of addressing both the existence and future of these oft-forgotten collections.

Cite this Record

Finding Skeletons in Our Closets: Legacy Collections and Repatriation.. Chelsea Meloche. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430613)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -142.471; min lat: 42.033 ; max long: -47.725; max lat: 74.402 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17403