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Striking a Balance: Preserving, Curating, and Investigating Human Remains from the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Sicily

SQUIRES, Kirsty and Piombino-Mascali, Dario (2023) Striking a Balance: Preserving, Curating, and Investigating Human Remains from the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Sicily. In: The Routledge Handbook of Museums, Heritage, and Death. Routledge, London, pp. 51-64. ISBN 9781003195870

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Abstract or description

The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo (Sicily) are an exceptional and culturally rich site utilised from the late sixteenth to mid-twentieth century C.E. The Catacombs are home to the largest assemblage (n=1,284) of partly or completely mummified remains in Europe. Given the unique nature of this crypt, thousands of tourists visit the Catacombs every year. This raises a plethora of challenges in terms of the preservation and curation of such a large assemblage of mummies, as well as the scientific study of these individuals. The Catacombs are open to visitors all year round, and a significant proportion of in-situ research must be conducted during opening hours whilst being surrounded by tourists. These difficulties are further compounded by the lack of investment in the site. This chapter will consider the ways in which the Capuchin mummies can be curated and preserved to acceptable standards within the constraints of limited funding, the need for scientific investigation, and the popularity of this site with tourists. This chapter will also demonstrate the importance of working transparently and encouraging an open dialogue with religious groups and cultural heritage bodies. The adoption of such an approach not only ensures the Capuchin mummies are preserved, displayed, and analysed appropriately, but guarantees the beliefs and wishes of the living and deceased are respected whilst simultaneously educating tourists that visit the site.

Item Type: Book Chapter, Section or Conference Proceeding
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in The Routledge Handbook of Museums, Heritage, and Death on 26 July 2023, available online:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Bioarchaeology; Mummy Studies; Conservation; Public Archaeology; Tourism; Heritage
Faculty: School of Law, Policing and Forensics > Forensic Sciences and Policing
Depositing User: Kirsty SQUIRES
Date Deposited: 25 Aug 2023 15:17
Last Modified: 25 Aug 2023 15:17
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