Publication Details

Hayes, S. (2016). Faces in the museum: revising the methods of facial reconstructions. Museum Management and Curatorship, 31 (3), 218-245.


Museum displays of faces derived from skeletal remains - typically referred to as facial reconstructions - are extraordinarily popular, and frequently function as iconic representations of a much broader engagement with collections from a particular people, time and place. Their actual ability to meaningfully represent either an individual or a museum collection is questionable, as facial reconstructions created for display and published within academic journals show an enduring preference for applying invalidated methods. Since 2002 there has been an increase in verified skull-soft tissue relationships, and these, together with research findings from related academic fields, can be incorporated within an evidence-based estimation of facial appearance. By illustration, a face given to an individual from the Museo de la Plata collection is critically revised to show how validated relationships result in a different face, and furthermore a face that is more closely aligned to what constitutes knowledge and display within the contemporary museum.



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