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Professor Siân Halcrow wins Fulbright for research on legacy skeletal collections

Tuesday 28 February 2023 11:42am

Sian Halcrow image
Professor Siân Halcrow is looking forward to using the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Award to further her research on the bioethics of skeletal collections in New Zealand and the United States.

Otago Professor Siân Halcrow is both humbled and excited to win a Fulbright New Zealand Scholar Award.

Professor Halcrow is based in the Department of Anatomy in the School of Biomedical Sciences. The US$18,500 award will enable her to travel to the University of California, Berkeley for three months later this year for research on the bioethics of skeletal collections in New Zealand and the United States.

Professor Halcrow feels “very honoured” to have received this prestigious award and she would like to “use this opportunity to make positive change”.

“My project will assess and compare the bioethics of skeletal collections in Aotearoa and the US, as well as completing the first systematic assessment of perspectives on the use and curation of these collections to inform international best practices,” Professor Halcrow says.

“There is a growing awareness within biological anthropology of the continuing impact of how museum and other skeletal collections were curated, as well as how these are used for research and teaching purposes around the world.

“My hope is that the prestigious nature of being a Fulbright scholar will help my engagement with US scholars so that the mahi I put into this project can be useful in informing the ethical guidelines of museums and universities.”

She explains there are ethical concerns regarding the curation and use of these collections due to the circumstances in which they were acquired, as they are often sourced from marginalised communities.

Professor Halcrow says these tensions have been felt most in countries such as the US and Aotearoa where there is a history of colonisation and mistreatment of Black and Indigenous people.

The Fulbright Scholarship’s purpose is “to build peace through the mutual understanding of cultures”, which strongly aligns with Professor Halcrow’s research as it is “arguably the most topical ethical issue facing the field of biological anthropology and anatomy today”.

Kōrero by the Health Science Communications Adviser, Kelsey Schutte.