JAIC 2004, Volume 43, Number 3, Article 2 (pp. 227 to 236)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 2004, Volume 43, Number 3, Article 2 (pp. 227 to 236)




Despite the problematic nature of biohistorical investigations completed to date, historians should not dismiss the potential of laboratory analysis to yield significant evidence. Historians and scientists have rarely undertaken collaborative research projects, which offer the potential for unusual analytical perspectives as well as new evidentiary sources. Comprehensive research methodologies as well as an interdisciplinary and intercultural dialogue on the implications of biohistorical investigations are sorely needed. Greater consideration should be given to basic techniques, such as detailed visual and micro-scopical examination, that can yield evidence far richer and more useful than genetic analysis. Historical biological tissues and traces should be preserved for the future development of less invasive and more accurate sampling and analytical techniques.

CHS and ISLAT welcome case studies and comments as they develop ethical guidelines for biohistorical investigations; the author's contact information follows below. Draft guidelines will be posted on CHS's website (www.chicagohistory.org) and distributed to professional associations for commentary in 2004 to promote a national dialogue on the implications of biohistorical research.


This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant no. 0134850. The author gratefully acknowledges project team members Lori Andrews (director, ISLAT; distinguished professor of law and associate vice president, Chicago-Kent College of Law), Jennifer Bridge (Ph.D. program, History Department, Loyola University–Chicago), Robert Gaensslen (professor and director of forensic science, University of Illinois at Chicago), Theodore Karamanski (professor of history, Loyola University–Chicago), Russell Lewis (Andrew W. Mellon director for collections and research, Chicago Historical Society), Laurie Rosenow (senior fellow and attorney, ISLAT), and David Stoney (director, McCrone Research Institute).

Copyright � 2004 American Institution for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works