Finding Ceremony is a descendant community-controlled process, restoring the lineages of care, reverence and spiritual memory to the work of caring for our dead. The formation of Finding Ceremony stems from aAliy Muhammad's and Dr. Lyra Monteiro's observation and study of the Penn Museum’s negligence stretching back decades, not only with the Morton Cranial Collection, but also with regard to the MOVE remains, and the other estimated 12,000 individuals held in the basement of the museum to this day.
1. The Penn Museum and the University of Pennsylvania have no decision-making role in the process of return of the ancestors--as the perpetrators of the harm, they cannot be part of the healing (other than through funding this work).
2. There are no easy or ideal or even very good solutions to the question of how to return the ancestors in the Morton Collection; and this is because we live in the world that empire has made (with the help of Morton's racial science)--a world that has intentionally severed the ties to family and homelands of both the living and the dead. While it may be possible to identify direct, lineal descendants for some of the people whose skulls were stolen and trafficked across the world, it's unlikely we'll be able to do that for everyone.
3. Given the absence of good solutions, Finding Ceremony proposes that a group of people who are deeply concerned about afterlives of ancestors serve as a stewardship body, who can care for the ancestors who have been held at the Penn Museum, until the best group of people gather to decide what to do with any part of the Morton Collection that they recognize to be their ancestors.
Finding Ceremony is currently being stewarded by Dr. Lyra Monteiro and aAliy Muhammad. We both know that the work of Finding Ceremony implies a global reach and necessitates engagement with descendants of people held within colonial collections worldwide. Currently our capacity and focus centers those held captive in the Morton Cranial Collection, and more specifically on the 20 Black Philadelphians within the collection, who the Penn Museum plans to bury imminently without the knowledge or consent of their descendants.
Finding Ceremony logo design: Kyle Goen, 2022.