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A public event was held on January 17, 2023, at Freie Universität Berlin’s Institute of Biology, to provide more information and a platform for discussing the findings of the project. Speakers at the event included Isabelle Reimann, ethnologist and provenance researcher from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and Mnyaka Sururu Mboro, human rights activist and co-founder of the non-governmental organization “Berlin Postkolonial” and board member of “Decolonize Berlin,” two organizations committed to the recognition and reappraisal of colonial injustice.

The provenance research team at Freie Universität Berlin’s Institute of Biology has published a website (www.bcp.fu-berlin.de/biologie/provenance/index.html, in German) answering frequently asked questions about the project. This is aimed at ensuring as much transparency as possible.

Biology student Vanessa Hava Schulmann is hoping that the project will spark a discussion about scientific and social responsibility in research and teaching. “We biologists, who work and learn with human remains, need to be aware of our social and ethical responsibility,” she says. The critical dialogue that needs to take place surrounding teaching and research with human remains is not as prevalent in biology as it is in other related disciplines, like anthropology and archaeology. On an interdisciplinary level, the origins of human remains present in collections housed at universities, institutes, schools, institutions, and museums are often insufficiently researched, she says.

Schulmann is appealing to policy makers in science and research to allocate more money to provenance research in order to guarantee funding for further projects. Securing long-term funding for provenance research is necessary, Schulmann says.