The anatomy of an anatomical collection

The Enschedé Room in the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen’s University Museum houses part of the anatomical collection of the University’s former Anatomical Museum. After the Anatomical Museum closed its doors in 2003, the collection was kept in storage until 2011 when part of the collection was moved to the University Museum. Shown in a display that calls to memory the anatomical theater of olden days, the museum’s collection consists of both skeletons and human remains in jars with formalin. On the University Museum’s website, a short history of how the university obtained the anatomical collection is available. The collection is mostly made up of the private collections belonging to two eighteenth century medical scientists, Petrus Camper and Pieter de Riemer.  Yet when visiting the museum, the Enschedé Room gives no context to how the collection was obtained whatsoever. Rather than delving into the collection’s history, the visitors are presented with an assortment of specimens with little background.

The arrangement of the specimens is nicely done. The arches of the anatomical theatre display give visitors a good overview of everything there is to see, the lighting from below ensures the entire collection is properly visible and there is an index of all the specimens for clarification. Nevertheless, the lack of both historical and medical context is noticeable. Besides the historical overview on the website, no information is given in the room itself about the origins of the collection, or who Petrus Camper and Pieter de Riemer were. When asked about the collection’s history, the museum staff added that the specimens were donated to the university after both their deaths. Showcasing this history somewhere in the Enschedé Room would have legitimized the collection as historical medical artifacts rather than just portray them as a sort of ‘cabinet of curiosities’. For example, one of the more interesting specimens is a longitudinal section of the torso of a 27-year old man. This is all the information that is available in the museum, yet in an interview with the local news channel, the collection’s curator goes into more detail: the body was donated in 1920, it was then frozen in a mixture of salt and ice to be cut into seven slices. Stories like this would make the collection more than three rows of human remains.

Other expositions in the museum do state the origin of the artifacts on display. In the room dedicated to the Dutch Canon, specifically Aletta Jacobs, visitors can observe medical instruments from her lifetime and there are even two embryos in formalin. The medical artifacts all have a small description of their function. More importantly, the human specimens have a description of their origin, which is Pieter de Riemer’s collection. Why do this for one room and not the other? The lack of context in the Enschedé Room is only highlighted by this decision.

Ethical questions

In the case of the University Museum, historical and medical context could combat the possible concerns about the collection’s origins. Over the last few years, human remains in museums have become controversial. Visitors sometimes have strong reactions to seeing human remains, especially babies, in jars. Besides this, many human specimens can trace their origins back to former colonies and are on display in museums in the former colonizing nations. This has led to a debate centered on ethics and consent, even resulting in a repatriation of human remains in some cases. When the University Museum in Groningen added the anatomical collection to its permanent exposition in 2011, this debate about ethics had been going on for several years with several museums making the conscious effort to move away from human specimens. Yet, the University Museum made the decision to showcase their collection, going against this trend. The curator explains this by saying there was a huge demand to see such specimens, but having human remains on display becomes precarious when looking at the historical context of colonization. One specimen in the collection calls to mind this colonial past: penis van een Ethiopiër (penis of an Ethiopian). Even though Ethiopia was never a Dutch colony, a description like that does raise questions about the origins of the specimen. Providing more context in the Enschedé Room could clear this up or shed light on the historical context of the specimen.

skelet Martinikerkhof

There is one skeleton that comes with an origin story. The skelet Martinikerkhof (Martini cemetery skeleton) is described as being excavated from a cemetery in Groningen in 1987, followed by a complete description of the scientific process to determine what age and sex the skeleton was. Though there is the issue of consent, the remains were not willingly donated but excavated hundreds or years after death, the museum shows visitors the value of this skeleton as a specimen by giving a description of its origin, its historical period and scientific value. The deeper look into the scientific process behind those remains is a valuable addition but it only emphasizes the lack of context for the other specimens.

By having a more open approach towards historical context and origins of the collection, the Enschedé room would become a more immersive space that provides deeper insight into the medical history of these human specimens. As one of the staff members said of the decision by some museums to remove provocative specimens; “even if you don’t see it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Hence the University Museum in Groningen decided to showcase these specimens. This rhetoric goes for the more controversial history of some of the human remains as well. The lack of provided context leaves questions about the origins of the collection’s specimens and a history that is very present yet uncomfortable to talk about.

Susan Brunsting

166 thoughts to “The anatomy of an anatomical collection”

  1. Interesting to read that the University Museum in Groningen is struggling with the same issues as the University Museum in Utrecht, which I visited! Is the University Museum in Groningen planning to change the display of the collection in order to pay more attention to the controversial history of some of the human remains?

  2. The argument “even if you don’t see it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” seems a bit weak to me. If you turn the phrase around, you can just as easily say ‘just because it exists, doesn’t mean you have to display it.’ I personally don’t think these specimens should be hidden from the public, but I do think displaying them comes with a responsibility. I think it is a shame the staff members don’t seem to have a more articulate opinion on this matter.

  3. Maaike, I tried to get in touch with the curator to ask him about this but he seems to be somewhat of a ghost because I was unable to reach him for a week and a half. Not for a lack of trying though. So I have the same question as you do!

    Lina, I agree that it’s a weak argument! I think it is an easy argument to make but it doesn’t really do justice to the responsibility you do have as a public institution when you are displaying specimens such as these.

  4. Very provocative example and great discussion here with your peers. You take a strong stance on the need for context and then give us a very clear example of why – the “penis of an Ethiopian” – and although you very rightly point out that the colonial origins and uses of such collections are why they are considered problematic today, it is also perhaps useful to note here that it was common to focus on sexual organs of other races as a way to claim others as more “primitive”/sexualized than “civilized” whites.

  5. I believe this is among the so much important information for me. And i am glad reading your article. However wanna commentary on few common issues, The website style is ideal, the articles is really excellent.W ant to learn about sports betting?visit my site here:바둑이사이트넷

  6. It’s really a great and useful piece of information. I’m happy that you simply shared this useful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing. but i want to offer you a good and more trusted site click the link and see:릴게임

  7. If you’re looking for more information regarding our services, please contact us today or check out our website. There is also information regarding banking options as well as information for those that intend to use a mobile device to enjoy gambling 카지노사이트777

  8. Many casinos even have sportsbooks, bingo and poker rooms attached. Funds can easily be transferred from one tab to another, giving real-money players in the game even more choice.
    Online gambling sites offer superior entertainment to playing in a land-based casino. 릴게임사이트

  9. I must thank you foг the efforts you have put in writing this blog.
    I am hoping too see the same high-gradе content by you latеr on as well.토토

  10. you’rе in point of fact a jyst right webmaster.The website loading vel?city iss amazing.
    It seems that you’rе doing any unique tr?ck. In addition, The contents are masterpiece.
    you have done a wonderful activity in thi? subject! 스포츠토토

  11. You really make it seem really easy together with
    your presentation but I in finding this matter to be really one thing that I believe
    I would by no means understand. It seems too complicated and very wide for me.
    I’m having a look forward in your subsequent submit,
    I’ll attempt to get the dangle of it!온라인카지노

  12. Greetings I am so glad I found your weblog, I really found you by error, while I was browsing on Bing for something else,
    Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say thanks a lot for a incredible post and a all round interesting blog. 카지노사이트

  13. Woah! I’m really digging the template/theme of this blοg.
    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s difficult to gеt thаt “perfect balance” betwaeеn superb usability. 토토

  14. I need to to thank you for this very good read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it. I have you book marked to check out new stuff you post… Look at my homepage.

  15. you’rе in point of fact a jyst right webmaster.The website loading vel?city iss amazing.
    It seems that you’rе doing any unique tr?ck. In addition, The contents are masterpiece.
    you have done a wonderful activity in thi? subject! 안전놀이터

  16. I do trust all the ideas уou’ve introduced for your post.
    They’re гeally convincing and can certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are very brief forr novices.

  17. Toto Sight-Raise Bet
    Subscription code: 6262 New sign-up 15%/roulette 1 sheet payment/daily pledge 10%/top 1% company/free sign/exchange/live system. 토토

  18. Toto Sight-Binggrae
    Sign-up code 222, first 20%, 10% insect, 15% unexpected, 20% casino coupon paid 3+3,10+5,30+8,50+15, self-sufficiency. 섯다

  19. Hey! your creative writing abilities has motivatеd me tо get my оwn, personal site now.

    For all the casino gamer out there! this time you don’t need to go out going to nearest casino in your town, because here our 100% trusted casino online site where you can enjoy from home. you don’t need to go out for you safety. visit our site for more information. have fun and enjoy! goodluck guys! 카지노사이트 There is no 100% safe place. There are a lot of toto sites that disappear suddenly one day, even if they are used normally without a splash. With such anxiety, we always monitor to avoid using the Toto site, and if you see any suspicious signs, we will contact you in advance to help you avoid damage.

  20. 提供24小時借錢管道,讓《E7借錢網》及時處理您小額借錢的問題。民間借貸中有豐富的汽車二胎資訊,身分證借錢以及辦門號換現金的方法,是您缺錢借現金、快速借錢好助手! 借錢,借錢網

  21. 提供24小時借錢管道,讓《E7借錢網》及時處理您小額借錢的問題。民間借貸中有豐富的汽車二胎資訊,身分證借錢以及辦門號換現金的方法,是您缺錢借現金、快速借錢好助手!借錢網

  22. Thiết kề và thi công nhà xưởng thép tiền chế là một trong những công đoạn quan trọng để đảm bảo cho một doanh nghiệp hoạt động hiệu quả. Nếu doanh nghiệp xây dựng nhà xưởng công nghiệp tốt, hợp lý công năng, kết cấu sử dụng sẽ tiết kiệm được rất nhiều chi phí. Các nhà xưởng khung thép tiền chế thường được thiết kế để cung cấp không gian chức năng cho các hoạt động nội bộ như: các cẩu trục, làm kho chứa hàng hóa, thiết bị hoặc làm không gian văn phòng làm việc, tiếp khách, trưng bày sản phẩm.Các nhà xưởng tiền chế có điếm nổi bật đó là không gian sàn mở rộng. Sự xuất hiện của các loại kết cấu thép là lý tưởng có các kỹ sư thiết kế thực hiện các ý tưởng kiến trúc và đáp ứng các yêu cầu công năng sử dụng.báo giá nhà xưởng tiền chế

  23. Online casinos and Toto sites are very convenient alternatives for players who do not have the resources or desire to travel to a real casino. Most online casinos and toto sites add to the freedom of gameplay through the mobile Internet. With the new approach to casino entertainment, players have questions about more mobile sports game features. Casino site asks the most common questions and gives players insight.
    looking for online casite site? we highly recommended this 100% trusted site and one of the most best site in online casino, if your interested feel free to visit our web site for more information by clicking here 온라인카지노

  24. I have read so many content regarding the blogger lovers however this paragraph is truly a pleasant article, ensure that is stays up. looking for online casite site? we highly recommended this 100% trusted site and one of the most best site in online casino, if your interested feel free to visit our web site for more information by clicking here 카지노사이트

  25. Great site. Lots of helpful info here. I’m sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks to your sweat! For those online casino fanatics, we highly recommeded this 100% trusted site of ours! One of the most trusted site among other online casino site. this 100% proven and tested. If you guys looking for fun and if you guys interested, feel free to visit to our website, feel free to ask . kindly click here 토토사이트
    . Try you luck now, We asure you will Have the fun and and joy your looking for!

  26. Search a Customer Care Number and other Contact Information to connect with Real Human. Get Genuine Customer Service Phone Number. Support Helpline Number. Visit

  27. Get a window into the entrepreneurial world through startup and small business news. We also provide resources in startup culture along with guides from experienced entrepreneurs to help you on your journey.dba

  28. Cedar Blinds is a family owned company with 10 year experience. We are the preferred supplier for many domestic and commercial clients because of our knowledge and experience in the industry. specialising in providing you with the highest quality Blinds to suit your home. We pride ourselves on giving you only the very best quality and service to ensure that you get exactly the right look and feel for your home. We have various services to offer, such as, pleated blinds, roller blinds, Venetian Blinds and much more, all with free consultations and free fitting. We offer products such as: Roller Blinds, Vertical Blinds,Wooden Blinds, Roman Blinds, Venetian Blinds. Blackout Blinds, Bamboo Blinds, Skylight Blinds All our products are cheap and reliable. We also offer FREE fitting, and consultations! If you are interested, feel free to get in touch and ask any questions you may have, or contact us on 01782 901112

  29. Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your web site
    and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. 토토베이
    Anyway I will be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently

  30. 스포츠토토
    Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog
    before but after reading through some of the post I realized
    it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back

  31. It’s really a great and helpful piece of info. I’m glad that you just shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. 홀덤 룰 Thank you for sharing.

  32. Outstanding post however , I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit more. looking for online casino site? we highly recommended this 100% trusted site and one of the most best site in online casino, if your interested feel free to visit our web site for more information by clicking here 카지노사이트

    Online casinos and Toto sites are very convenient alternatives for players who do not have the resources or desire to travel to a real casino. Most online casinos and toto sites add to the freedom of gameplay through the mobile Internet. With the new approach to casino entertainment, players have questions about more mobile sports game features. Casino site asks the most common questions and gives players insight.

  33. How to win hold’em
    The expression +EV is often used.
    In short, it means you have to play to win in the long run.
    In other words, don’t spend a moment on the results, but stick to making a good process.
    This will eventually lead to more chances of winning.
    However, after a series of unfortunate defeats like Bad Beat, almost all Texas Hold’em players are in a tilted state. 텍사스홀덤

    So, in the end, you can’t get over that moment of mentality and you won’t be able to play the A game you’ve been protecting. To find a
    way to win Texas Hold’em, you must first gain experience. Hold’em is the

    only game with skill that requires a high level of psychological warfare .
    Online Hold’em can be used offline with real users, and is simple and easy to use.
    Hold’em sites introduced are the most active members, convenience, etc. It is an online hold’em site that is recommended by referring to
    . Private hold’em businesses are also increasing offline.
    From the comfort of home, mobile use is also recommended Available Online Hold’em to
    Texas to enjoy the game strategy and know-how rather than have to rely on luck like sports betting and online casino Hold’em is skill is needed pilhi game.
    That’s why it comes with a different kind of fun
    You can enjoy a high level of tension in real time through the screen of the Hold’em site, which is broadcast live online
    . Immerse yourself in the charm of Homedom anytime, anywhere through a simple account issuance and easy access
    . You can become like a famous foreign gambler. We hope you enjoy the fun and good luck by using the Hold’em site we recommend.

  34. It is quite tricky to distinguish between safety playgrounds.

    The long-term operation and charging speed should also be fast and there should be no accident for many years.

    The playground recommended by Toto Guard is a safety playground.

    That’s why members can trust and use it. 토토사이트

    If the safety playground we recommend is in an accident,

    100% responsible.

    ​Please use the safe playground to trust Toto Guard.

    Everyone says their playground is safe, but in reality it is often not.

    It takes considerable effort to find a safe playground among various playgrounds.

    Ordinary members don’t have the time to make that effort

    It is difficult to find a safe playground without a professional

    Experts like us are verifying and recommending safety playgrounds for our members.

    We recommend only the safest playground in Korea.

    No matter what happens, we operate a system that directly compensates you.

    That’s why you can use the safe playground freely.

    If you have any inconvenience or questions while using it,

    Please contact our customer service center so that we can respond quickly and accurately.

    I will try.

    ​The safe playground can be trusted with our Toto Guard.

  35. Toto must use a safe and old major private Toto site. Because there are so many eating and running sites. We insist on a few things to select a safe Toto site. First, we prioritize financial power. Because most Toto sites that don’t have much money are often eating and running sites.Secondly, the operation period is important. 토토
    The safer Toto sites are, the older they are. Because of that, we are determining whether it is a safe major playground after looking at the operation period. There are many pitiless Tottosites that receive membership randomly without phone authentication. So choose a safe Toto site.

    You have to sign up to avoid being eaten and thrown out.

    To use a safety park, is it that safe?

    It needs to be verified.

    The safety playground is full of many games.

    Each major site has a wide variety of games.

    Before you sign up, you may ask in advance.

  36. Slot Machine a gambling machine operated by inserting coins into a slot and pulling a handle that activates a set of spinning symbols on wheels, the final alignment of which determines the payoff that is released into a receptacle at the bottom. any machine operated by inserting coins into a slot, as a vending machine.​​​​​​​ 스포츠토토

  37. Usually I don’t learn article on blogs, however I would like to say that
    this write-up very pressured me to take a look at and do it!
    Your writing style has been amazed me. 포커게임
    Thank you, very
    great article.

  38. I’m gone to tell my little brother, that he should also pay a quick visit
    this website on regular basis to get updated from hottest reports.

  39. Fantastic blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little
    lost on everything. Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid
    option? 스포츠토토
    There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused ..
    Any suggestions? Many thanks!

  40. Thanks for your personal marvelous posting!
    I quite enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great author.I will
    make sure to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back later in life.
    I want to encourage yourself to continue your great work, 고스톱 족보 have a
    nice morning!

  41. Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed!
    Very helpful info particularly the last part 🙂 I care for such info much.
    I was seeking this particular info for a long time. 포커게임Thank
    you and good luck.

  42. I think this is among the most important information for me.
    And i am glad reading your article. But should remark on few general things,
    The website style is ideal, 토토사이트
    the articles is really nice : D.
    Good job, cheers

  43. Thank you so much for giving everyone an exceptionally brilliant possiblity to read articles and blog posts from this web site. It is often so pleasurable plus stuffed with amusement for me personally and my office colleagues to search your web site no less than three times per week to read through the fresh things you have. 온라인카지노

  44. Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other blogs?
    I have a blog centered on the same ideas you discuss and would love to have
    you share some stories/information. 사설토토

  45. Thanks for taking the time to share with us such a great article. I found such a significant number of fascinating stuff with regards to your blog particularly its discussion. Keep doing awesome. 먹튀검증

  46. One can learn something new here everyday. I’m a regular for most of those blogs, but still didn’t know about a couple of them.

  47. Hi! I’ve been following your web site for a long time now
    and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Kingwood Texas!
    Just wanted to mention keep up the good work!

  48. It is in point of fact a great and useful piece of information. I am
    satisfied that you simply shared this useful information with us.

    Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  49. Great goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you’re just too fantastic. I really like what you have acquired here, certainly like what you are saying and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it sensible. 온라인카지노

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.