Monday, 14 March 2011

Letter to Thackray - Mary Bateman

I wrote an email to the Thackray detailing my issues with the display of Mary Bateman's remains. It went as follows:

"I am writing in the regards to your current display of the remains of Mary Bateman, who you advertise as 'The Yorkshire Witch'. I find the display of an executed woman's remains, especially one who you identify as a witch, ill-fitting with the ethos of a progressive and scientific educational establishment. The incomplete skeleton seems to me to have little educational value beyond morbid shock value, genuine human skeletons that have been legitimately donated are not hard to come by and would be a far greater benefit to children and adults visiting the museum. The continued ill-treatment of her remains for the past 202 years seems to far exceed the nature of her crimes, however serious. This woman paid the ultimate price for her misdeeds during her life, she died pitifully and publicly. To continue to punish her now by displaying her in a disrespectful manner while other women and men who were also executed at the time were eventually buried and laid to rest begs the question, why is Mary Bateman still displayed? To me it seems obvious that her status as a witch seems to give cause to sensationalise her death and to monopolise on the barbaric treatment of her corpse post-mortem. I'm sure her body brings in good revenue for the museum, but I think the neglect of the moral issues of displaying a corpse for little other reason than her connection to a set of folk-beliefs is somewhat archaic. This woman is a part of our cultural heritage, she is a child of the city who's genetic material is still living, walking and breathing around us. From a scientific point of view, I think a display surrounding the continuing nature of DNA would be a far greater benefit, and of a far less morbid nature.

I think a burial for Mary Bateman is 202 years late, and the costs should be met by Leeds University, or whoever has profited the most from the display of her bones. However, I am quite willing to fund raise to help towards the costs."

I have no idea how much interest this small campaign has beyond myself and a few associates who have discussed it with me, but if anyone else wishes to write to them, you can email the museum at

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