WHICHEVER way you look at it, for better or worse, our museums are in the midst of a benign cultural revolution.

Artifacts once innocently seen as a curious insight into life in a distant land, are now regarded by some as offensive, or as reinforcing racist and stereotypical thinking.

The removal of shrunken heads by the Pitt Rivers Museum is just the latest symptom of a flood of politically-motivated curatorial revisionism sweeping the land, provoking controversial action at such respected institutions as the British Library and British Museum.

Read more: Museum removes shrunken heads

Generations of children, along with curious tourists, have long enjoyed a trip to the Pitt Rivers Museum – a chaotic, dimly-lit, daunting treasure trove of anthropology which reveals new finds on each visit.

They don’t come to see pots and drinking vessels... they come to see precisely the things which are now been hidden: shrunken heads and other terrifying and inspiring artifacts from strange and distant lands.

They inspire, alarm and remind us that not every corner of this endlessly fascinating planet is as beige, safe and blandly suburban as ours.

To dismiss such items as ‘racist’ is a huge insult to the visitors who marvel at them and to the people who proudly made them.

Headhunting was a practice proudly carried out by cultures as far apart as Borneo and South America. In the case of Borneo, the practice has since returned sporadically – notably in Sarawak against the Japanese during the Second World War, and as recently as 2001 during communal strife over the border in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan.

The rainforest-dwelling Iban in particular cling fondly to their noble headhunting heritage – and their smoky bundles of enemy skulls. It is partly what defines them as a people.

To brush away traces of mankind’s rich and diverse history is to airbrush, edit and sanitise our shared story. It also makes the present harder to understand.

Removing items is a short-sighted and boring action which takes us down a very dangerous path.

Where will it end?