What We Know About the Smithsonian’s Human Remains

Nicole Dungca, Claire Healy, and Andrew Ba Tran, The Washington Post, What We Know About the Smithsonian’s Human Remains. Brains and other body parts, mostly from people of color, were taken without consent. As The Washington Post investigated, the museum took action. Monday, 14 August 2023:  “The Washington Post spent a year examining the Smithsonian’s collection of human remains, including 255 brains. Reporters reviewed thousands of documents, including studies, field notes and personal correspondence, and interviewed experts, Smithsonian officials, and descendants and members of communities whose remains were targeted for collection. The Post also obtained from the National Museum of Natural History an inventory of all human remains in its possession, which allowed reporters to publish the most extensive analysis of the collection to date. Read the first story now: Revealing the Smithsonian’s ‘racial brain collection.’” See also, Joy Sharon Yi, The Washington Post, The Collection: How The Washington Post Reported on the Smithsonian’s Human Remains, Thursday, 17 August 2023: “The story began in a St. Louis cemetery, where at least six Filipinos are buried. They had come from the Philippines to be put on display at the 1904 World’s Fair, living in model villages for onlookers to gawk at their customs. They never returned home. A few years ago, a Filipino American activist and artist, Janna Añonuevo Langholz, learned about their stories and went looking for them, marking their graves and leading tours of the site of the Philippine Exhibition. She also made a startling discovery: The brains of four Filipino people had been removed and sent to the Smithsonian’s U.S. National Museum, the precursor to the National Museum of Natural History. Claire Healy, a copy aide at The Washington Post and a freelance writer, learned about Langholz’s work and probed further. ‘I asked the Smithsonian, “How many brains do you have and why?” And they sent me a spreadsheet,’ she said. Healy partnered with investigative reporter Nicole Dungca to keep digging. ‘There were children in the collection,’ Dungca said. ‘There were men and women and then fetuses. Many of them were Indigenous people, other people of color. And many of them didn’t have their identities actually recorded, partly because they were looked at as specimens.’ Senior video editor Joy Sharon Yi traveled to St. Louis to interview Langholz, and filmed Healy and Dungca as they pieced together the final parts of the story.”