Skeletal Research Collections
Physical access to human (and non-human) skeletons is an important training, practice and research issue. Skeletons of all ages, sizes, both sexes and various causes of death not only helps the student learn but can be an important factor in solving questions about a person's death by comparison with other skeletons.
Most of the modern skeletal specimens in Written in Bone come from two remarkable research collections.
The Robert J. Terry Anatomical Collection
Today the Robert J. Terry Anatomical Collection is the most intensively studied research collection in the Smithsonian Institution. Many of the basic techniques for reading the age and sex of human remains emerged as researchers compared the detailed, identified "bone biographies" of the 1,700 individuals now in this collection, which was assembled between 1898 and 1967.
The University of Tennessee William M. Bass Donated Skeletal Collection
As a contemporary collection, the University of Tennessee William M. Bass Donated Skeletal Collection better reflects the present-day American population. All of the 750 skeletons in the still-growing collection were generous donations to science.
More About One Individual in the Terry Collection
"I've been a teacher all my life, and I think I might as well be a teacher after I'm dead."
- Grover Krantz
The remains of Dr. Grover Krantz, a professor of physical anthropology at Washington State University, is one example of an individual who has donated his body to a research collection. At his death in 2002, according to his wishes, Dr. Krantz's remains were taken to the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility, where scientists are conducting many kinds of skeletal research, including studies of soft-tissue decay rates — information that is essential in forensic cases for accurately estimating time since death.
In 2003, the remains of Grover and his dog Clyde were brought to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, so that their skeletons could be used in teaching.