Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Muiner on the Corpse of the Irish Giant as Cultural Property

Byrne's Remains (credit below)
Thomas Louis Muinzer, Stirling Law School, has posted A Grave Situation: An Examination of the Legal Issues Raised by the Life and Death of Charles Byrne, the “Irish Giant,” which appeared in the International Journal of Cultural Property 20 (2013): 23-48:
Charles Byrne was an eighteenth-century celebrity “Irish giant” who requested burial upon nearing death, but whose corpse was procured against his wishes by the surgeon John Hunter. Hunter reduced Byrne’s corpse to its skeleton and exhibited it as the centerpiece of his vast anatomical collection. It has since remained on display in the Hunterian Museum, London. In 2011 it was announced that research conducted on the skeleton’s DNA has revealed that several Northern Irish families share a common ancestry with Byrne. This article considers the legal issues raised by Byrne’s story. The results of fieldwork undertaken by the author in Byrne’s native townland are also discussed, where folk tradition suggests that Byrne wished to be buried foremost at a local site remembered today as “the Giant’s Grave.”
Photo credit: StoneColdCrazy at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16500747

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