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Return them all!

By Janet Mariadoss

This was my first time using Adobe Spark to create a graphic and I will definitely be using it more often in the future! My graphic is about the Samuel Morton Crania Collection found at the Penn Museum. Professor Doherty showed us a picture of artifacts from this collection during her lecture about how social culture impacts science. The collection includes the skulls of enslaved Black Philadelphians that had been stolen from their graves. I researched further about the origins of this collection and why it was a source of controversy last summer. Samuel Morton is now known as the “Father of Scientific Racism.” His research on the human crania he collected was cited as pseudo-scientific evidence that Europeans were superior to other races. This false ideology was used to justify white supremacist beliefs and slavery and has now been widely-criticized by modern scientists and anthropologists.

The Penn Museum housed his cranial collection and has since then apologized for the unethical possession of human remains in the Morton Collection. In April 2021 they announced their plan for the repatriation and reburial of the remains of Black Philadelphians within the Morton Collection. This decision is a result of the hard work of many activists who have protested and called attention to the collection in June 2020. However, there still a lot more work to be done in the Penn Museum and the University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, there are likely similar collections across the world that need to be reevaluated and repatriated.

This graphic was created to bolster the views of those activists as a call to action on the issue of the Morton Collection. I learned from our discussion last week that Blackness and slavery cannot be separated from the history of science, medicine, and anthropology. The idea of credibility and authenticity is inextricably tied to the white privilege of the scientific community of that time. I wanted to put together a graphic that could have been used by the organizers of this movement and educate the public about the social culture of science.

On Adobe Spark, I played around with the stickers and décor items found in their resources. I placed a handful of them in a collage-like format around a picture of several of the artifacts found in the Morton Collection. Honestly, I was having fun playing around with the array of vintage stickers that Adobe Spark provided. The words “Return them all!” was inspired by a poster held by protesters organizing this movement. I added a brief statement towards the bottom of the poster to summarize the main goals of the movement. I will definitely be using these new skills going forward to hopefully create more complex infographics in the future.

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