Preservation of human scalp

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    • #132315
      Martha Grenzeback

      I know this sounds gruesome–but Omaha Public Library is in possession of a human scalp (with hair attached) that was removed from its owner, a Union Pacific Railroad worker, during a Cheyenne attack in 1867. He survived and managed to retrieve his scalp, but it could not be reattached and he eventually gave it to the doctor who treated him, who, in turn, donated it to Omaha Public Library in 1900 (this would definitely not fit our collection policy nowadays…).

      It has been stored in an archival box, lightly swathed with, I think, unbuffered acid-free tissue paper and a blackish-grayish cone of something, not sure what….(this was not covered in library school!).

      My question is: should the tissue paper and/or the cone of whatever be changed from time to time? We seem to have no documentation on this, or how or when some past staff member decided how to store this unusual item. We keep it in our archival storage room and only bring it out at the request of researchers, or occasionally for some special event.



    • #132319
      Sarah Cantor

      I would suggest contacting your state forensic anthropologist or the anthropology department at U of N. I just had to deal with a skull in our collections and our state forensic anthropologist was very responsive.

    • #132318

      Believe it or not-there are a few of these out there.

      The paper should be changed, probably annually.  It should generally be trated as a pelt or hide with hair on, and protected from the same pests that fur attracts.  In addition to Ms Cantor’s suggestion, you might also contact the Natural History folks at the U of  N Museum for advice on care.  The National Museum of Health and Medicine might be of assistance, as they are the repository of an amazing array of anatomical specimens.

    • #132317

      I was going to suggest The National Museum of Health and Medicine as well, but Charles beat me to it. 

      Could the cone be charcoal? Activated charcoal aka activated carbon is often used to get rid of odors and some filters are cone shape. 

    • #132316
      Martha Grenzeback

      I was thinking it might be activated carbon–does that ever need to be replaced?  Anyway, those are excellent suggestions. I will try the NMHM and the state museum.  Thanks!

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