A CONTROVERSIAL collection of shrunken heads that has been displayed at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford for more than 80 years has been indefinitely removed from public view.

Following a review, the world-famous institution removed 120 human remains ahead of its reopening on Tuesday, as part of a ‘decolonisation process’.

The Pitt Rivers, a department of the University of Oxford, justified the decision, saying that displaying human remains “reinforced racist and stereotypical thinking that goes against the museum’s core values”. But critics condemned it as an example of “politically correct gesture politics”.

Opinion: Removing museum artifacts is dull and dangerous

The Pitt Rivers acquired 12 shrunken heads, or ‘tsantsas’, made by the Shuar and Achuar people from the rainforests of Ecuador and Peru, previously described as ‘headhunters’.

The move followed audience research that showed the popular displays served to reiterate ‘racist stereotypes’.

Museum visitor Julian Munby from Witney, said the move would cause “great sadness to generations of past visitors and many more to come and cause any benefactor or well-wisher to university museums to think again.”

He added: “The removal of objects reflecting colonialism, imperialism and western/white supremacy from this extraordinary collection would leave a near empty building. How can we save our cultural treasures from the new Cultural Revolution of curatorial fanatics?”

Oxford Mail:

Oxford campaigner Chaka Artwell also condemned the move, saying: “This is upsetting and another example of politically correct gesture politics. The Pitt Rivers has made the wrong decision.”

Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum is also working to revise so-called ‘insensitive’ exhibits.

Spokeswoman Sarah Holland said the museum had been collaborating with other Oxford University institutions and its partners to “address the uncomfortable legacy of colonialism, to raise awareness, invite dialogue and inform change”.

She added: “We know we have a responsibility to decolonise our thinking, language and practices to reflect a broader range of perspectives and narratives.

“Across the museum, we continue to introduce more balanced and multi-layered stories of our shared world.

“The Ashmolean is currently involved in discussions with Indian authorities regarding the possible repatriation of an Indian 16th to 17th century bronze of Saint Tirumankai Alvar.”

The museum’s action followed a decision by the city’s Dragon School to rename one of its houses, over concerns it was racially offensive.

The Dragon School on Bardwell Road, whose past pupils include actors Emma Watson and Tom Hiddleston, renamed its senior boys’ boarding house from Gunga Din to Dragon House.

In an opinion piece for The Spectator alumnus Alexander Pelling-Bruce criticised the decision and argued it “sanitises the present by obliterating the past”.