Ethics: The public view

During the summer of 2018, a public exhibition at Palace Green Library told the story of the Scottish prisoners. You will learn more about this in Step 6.11. During that exhibition we took the opportunity to collect feedback from visitors on a number of issues, encouraging them to vote on a series of questions linked to the content of the displays. The pie charts below indicate the responses that were given.

Graph A

Graph B

Graph C

Graph D

These responses suggest a higher-than-average understanding of both the exhibition subject matter and related ethical issues by our exhibition visitors. Over three quarters of visitors to the exhibition felt that it was appropriate to excavate, study and display human remains if ethical guidelines were followed. There were multiple comments from visitors on the sensitivity of the approach followed in the exhibition.

Some visitors engaged more deeply with the questions we asked, sharing their thoughts in evaluation questionnaires, on a feedback board or in the visitors book. One couple visiting the exhibition left a note inside the ballot box for Question 2 which read:

Yes, but we are New Zealanders and our country has a team of experts who will come to repatriate bodies. Maori believe that the whole body should be buried… they often keep placentas and body parts may go to the final place of resting before them.

This in itself is an interesting reminder of the way that people of different nationalities view the excavation, study and display of human remains and some of the cultural sensitivities that have shaped our national guidelines, and locally – our exhibition planning.

Other comments about our ethical approach came from the visitors’ book. We will look at some of these in Week 6.

The results presented above predominately reflect a British audience, and one which was sufficiently interested by the subject matter to visit our exhibition. How would you answer these questions and are you surprised by the results? Use the Comments section below to share your thoughts.

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This article is from the free online course:

Archaeology and the Battle of Dunbar 1650: From the Scottish Battlefield to the New World

Durham University