HOME stands for Human remains Origin(s) Multidisciplinary Evaluation. This federal scientific project was launched in December 2019 for a two-year period. The Royal Museum for Central Africa participates with six other partners. These comprise three institutions (Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences, National Institute of Criminalistics and Criminology and Royal Museum of Art and History) and three universities (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Université de Saint-Louis and Université de Montréal). All institutional partners have human remains in their collections. The collections of human remains linked to the colonial past and originally in custody of the AfricaMuseum were transferred along with the acquisition files, to the RBINS in 1964.
Various research groups from institutions and universities will draw an inventory as complete as possible of all non-Belgian human remains present in Belgium. At the AfricaMuseum we contribute to this inventory of non Belgian human remains from Central Africa with preliminary investigation into their provenance. We aim to identify the various stake holders in the countries of origin. Our focal point is the Democratic Republic of Congo, because most of the collections originate from there. We are examining various scenarios for the future destination of human remains.
Provenance study: where do the human remains come from?
The collections of human remains came into existence in a wide variety of ways. Belgian military officers kept some human remains after punitive expeditions and they or their family donated these to the museum. Medical doctors, nurses and members of scientific associations and museums also collected human bones, in order to constitute osteological collections within the framework of physical anthropology. Still other human remains were unearthed during archaeological excavations. A last source were the donations of private collectors during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Starting from case studies and in consultation with stakeholders from the countries of origin, we set out to examine future possibilities for various restitution scenarios. At the AfricaMuseum we start from multiple perspectives. Building on previous projects with this multivocal approach, we continue to develop a network in the DRC with our partners in Lubumbashi and Kinshasa.