Although yes, you need actual human remains in order to teach students in forensic sciences, you can’t just use someone’s remains without them or their family giving consent.
So how did this end up happening? It’s not quite clear, and the Penn Museum admits that.
“Why were the remains at the Museum in the first place? Why were they used for teaching purposes? And, most importantly, what are we going to do to resolve this situation?” the Penn Museum asked in an apology that they issued.
“In 1985, the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office asked Penn physical anthropologists to assist with the efforts to identify some of the remains from the MOVE house,” the statement from the museum continues.
“It is common for physical anthropologists to assist in forensic cases where individual identity is uncertain, and over the years our experts revisited this question, driven by new science and technology.”
“But despite these efforts, we, unfortunately, are still unable to provide conclusive confirmation of identity.”
The Penn Museum acknowledged that this victim’s remains should have been given back to their family ASAP, instead of lying around for 36 years.
The Penn Museum then went on to confirm that this victim’s remains were used in a Princeton University forensic anthropology class that was taught by someone who works at the museum.
In conclusion, the Penn Museum said they are committed to revamping their practices surrounding “collecting, stewarding, displaying, and researching human remains.”
“It is now obvious, however, that this reassessment must also include how human remains are used in teaching as well as a comprehensive review of the holdings and collection practices of our Physical Anthropology section,” the museum wrote.
In conclusion, they said that they have appointed some attorneys to “investigate how the remains came into the possession of the Museum and what transpired with them for nearly four decades.”
The Penn Museum plans on publicly sharing the report after it is completed.