LA Times Blog: Skeleton hiding in museum's closet
"You could call it the skeleton in the Page Museum's closet.

For years, the George C. Page Museum in Los Angeles has housed a 9,000-year-old set of bones that is said to be the only human remains recovered from the Rancho La Brea area, which is famous for its prehistorical tar pits. A cast of the skull was on display at the museum for a period but the museum withdrew it from exhibition about five years ago and placed it in storage along with the original bones.

Now, a former volunteer at the museum has published images of a facial reconstruction of the specimen against the museum's wishes. She claims that the museum is scared that her reconstruction, in which the specimen is depicted as having Native American features, will encourage tribes to reclaim the bones for reburial.

"Obviously they're not completely happy about it," said Melissa Cooper, the former volunteer in question, when asked about going public with her work. She said that the museum won't display her images out of fear that the Chumash, a Native American tribe, will attempt to take the bones away.

Officials at the Page Museum denied many of Cooper's claims, saying that the museum only approved Cooper's project provided that the results would not be published or disseminated anywhere.

"It was a personal exercise. She wasn't doing it for us," said John Harris, who serves as chief curator at the Page Museum."

Get the Story:
Culture Monster: The skeleton that the Page Museum doesn't want you to see (The Los Angeles Times 11/24)