“Katricia Dotson’s remains were studied, disputed, displayed and litigated. Lost in the controversy was the life of an American girl and her family.” Bronwen Dickey reports on the Penn Museum’s mishandling of human remains from some of the victims in the 1985 MOVE bombing in West Philadelphia. It’s an infuriating, heartbreaking story about institutional racism and injustice.

The Penn Museum was built on property that once adjoined the Blockley Almshouse, right between a potter’s field and Penn Medical School. Dedicated in 1899, what was first a repository for ancient artifacts grew to include a staggering collection of historical human remains — an estimated 250,000 bones from more than 12,000 people — unearthed during archaeological digs or collected by physicians, including the Morton skulls. The MOVE bones were never formally added to the museum’s collections (a process known as accessioning), so they were never cataloged or formally exhibited. Mann stored them in a cabinet in his museum office.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.