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Word of Mouth: Talking about how we interpret skulls

14 August 2014

The Word of Mouth exhibition has been a truly collaborative effort between The University of EdinburghSurgeons’ Hall MuseumCraigmillar Community Arts and Forensic Artist Gillian Taylor. The idea for this exhibition was inspired by a skull found in Edinburgh College of Art’s teaching collection. At the start of the project, nothing was known about the identity of this skull. To make the study of the skull relevant to a wide audience, the investigation took two forms – scientific analysis and a process of open public engagement.

The public engagement started with an interactive installation by University of Edinburgh. The installation was part of The ASA 2014 conference, where attendees and members of the public were asked to build displays around the skull. A number of stills were produced during the conference and work began to turn the information into a public exhibition and wider engagement project.

As part of Surgeons’ Hall Museums outreach programme, a 3D print of the skull was taken to Craigmillar Community Arts during the Craigmillar Arts Festival. Here, members of the community interpreted their own cultural and personal significance of the skull. Their interpretation created a narrative and brought a deeper understanding to how people relate to human remains.

During the process, scientific analysis to the cranium and mandible provided the missing information on gender, age and nutrition; and a forensic reconstruction revealed the identity of the skull. The processes were captured and special behind the scenes footage of the CT ScanAge & GenderThe Jaw BoneTeeth & DevelopmentThe 3D Print and Forensic Reconstruction are available to view online or at the public exhibition displayed at the front of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Nicolson Street from 14th August – 14th November 2014.

The project aims to gain ever-growing memento by encouraging academics and the public to discuss their views on skulls and identity, comments and discussions are very welcome via the blog, at the exhibition, Facebook and Twitter. During the course of the exhibition, guest blogs will be appearing from participants and public engagement activities will be announced soon.

Narrative and interpretation by Emma Black, Photography by Caroline Douglas, Osteological & Anthropological analysis by Linda Fibiger & Elena Kranioti, original installation devised & coordinated by John Harries & Joan Smith, filming by John Nowak, Forensic Reconstruction by Gillian Taylor.

With thanks to: Jane Cheeseman, Joost Fontein, Mike Greenlaw, Chris Henry, Patricia Kerr, Lesley Roy, and Diego Zamora.


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