Oxford museum comes under pressure to remove shrunken heads after complaints from indigenous South American tribes
- Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford has received complaints from the Shuar people
- The shrunken heads have been on display at the musuem since the 1940s
- The museum has also received complaints for putting human remains on show
A museum collection of shrunken human heads could be removed from display after complaints from a group of indigenous South Americans.
The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford has been contacted by the Shuar people in the Amazon rainforest about the shrunken heads, which they say are of religious importance.
Museum curators said the talks came about after they were labelled a ‘freak show’ by a visitor.
The shrunken heads on display at Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford may be taken off display
It is hoped that a deal can be struck with the Shaur which would allow them to continue to the show the heads, which have been on display since the 1940s, by emphasising their cultural significance.
The museum has already been forced to remove two scalps from display after complaints by Native American communities who claimed their culture has been misrepresented.
Laura Van Broekhoven, the director of the Pitt Rivers Museum, told The Telegraph: ‘We know the collection of heads is cherished by many, but there are also many people who feel uncomfortable with it. There are questions about whether human remains should be on display.’
She added: ‘Their concerns are whether there is a proper understanding of the way this elaborate leather-making of human skin into a ceremonial object was done, and that it no longer is done today.’
The museum has already been forced to remove two scalps from display after complaints by Native American communities who claimed their culture has been misrepresented
One way which the display material might stay up is by explaining the part the heads played in the spiritual life of the Shuar and Achuar people, Ms Van Broekhoven said
One way which the display material might stay up is by explaining the part the heads played in the spiritual life of the Shuar and Achuar people, Ms Van Broekhoven said.
She said: ‘The display may not be communicating properly the importance of the shrunken heads. It may be a case of adding a message or a display in the case to help people understand more about what they are looking at.’
The Shuar and Achuar people of Ecuador and Peru made the shrunken heads as they believed it would harnass the spirit of the enemy and prevent the soul from avenging his death.
Ms Van Broekhoven said ‘all options are on the table’, adding: ‘There will be consultation with the Shuar, but for now the display will stay as it is.’
Museum curators said the talks came about after they were labelled a ‘freak show’ by a visitor