This past weekend, members of the JonsBones Team had the opportunity to open up our showroom for the open house at b[x] Studios in Brooklyn, New York. Over the course of two days we had over 600 visitors, and many many valuable conversations. Even with up to 15 visitors in our showroom, we were able to make sure that everyone remained a safe distance from the specimens, and we were able to have the long, in-depth conversations we aspire to. We were delighted to hear from our visitors that they had heard of us from our various media features, and were curious about our work. Our visitors also included artists, mortuary technicians, and people who had inherited medical osteology. But the majority of our guests were previously unaware of the medical bone trade, or the scale it once operated on.
During each tour, we introduced our company's mission of preserving medical history, and expanding access to osteological education. During this time, we talked about the complicated history surrounding the medical bone trade, both in terms of predatory sourcing practices, and the commodification of human remains themselves, as well as how to approach the modern conundrum of what to do with these remains now that they exist and have monetary value. In having these conversations, many people were surprised to learn that these remains are as complicated to dispose of as they are. Even though medical students were required to purchase these pieces for their education, there was no long-term plan about what to do with these pieces after they had served the original purchaser’s education.
Because improper disposal of human remains is a crime they are not able to be buried or cremated by the average person without great expense. The bones have been so thoroughly cleaned that they are not able to be DNA sequenced and repatriated to surviving descendants. The mortuary technicians also brought up an interesting point about burial in the United States becoming increasingly more difficult because of the understanding that remains cannot be disturbed for perpetuity, and the increasingly limited burial ground available. As opposed to other cultures that allow for bones to be removed if no longer being visited, or to be buried on top of to preserve space. In talking with our visitors, many interesting solutions were proposed, but ultimately we all agreed that preservation and expanding access to information was the primary goal.
Many of our visitors stayed for long periods of time, to contemplate, to explore our collection, or just to draw inspiration from the bones. This was a wonderful opportunity to practice our values in expanding public awareness and accessibility. At JonsBones it has always been our goal to expand awareness and share information, and this was an extension of that mission. We hope to facilitate these conversations in the future with more tours of our showroom!