Magazine article The Spectator

Banned Wagon

Magazine article The Spectator

Banned Wagon

Article excerpt

NEW Labour was elected to government four years ago on an anti-sleaze platform, promising that it would no longer tolerate public officials with skeletons in their cupboards. And so it won't; only the skeletons it has focused on are not the metaphorical ones belonging to its own ministers but the literal ones displayed by the nation's museum-keepers. Never slow to dream up some new politically correct act, it has decided that the country no longer has any business keeping shrunken heads in its museums.

To this end, the arts minister Alan Howarth has set up a working group to `examine the legal status of human remains in government-funded museums and galleries in the UK' and to `consider guidance on the care and safekeeping of human remains and on the handling of requests for returns'. In other words, if you are a curator and you cannot produce a certificate to prove that the bones brought back from Borneo in 1846 were purchased with full permission, you are to surrender them to the Indonesian ambassador at once. …

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