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San Diego Museum Of Man Explores History of Cannibalism

March 8, 2016 1:24 p.m.

San Diego Museum Of Man Explores History of Cannibalism


Emily Anderson, director of exhibit and development, San Diego Museum of Man

Related Story: San Diego Museum Of Man Explores History of Cannibalism


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

You could say that San Diego Museum of his jumping out of the medieval fire into the fern pan. The Museum has closed its long-term exhibit on the instruments of torture to open its new show on cannibals, myth and reality. Joining me is Emily Anderson director of exhibit development at the San Diego Museum of -- Emily welcome to the program.
We think about cannibals, you might get these crazy movie images of tribal people dancing around a boiling pot. Not exactly true I here? Dish
Not at all. Cannibalism and cannibals are considered the greatest have been. As far from human behavior or certainly the most [ Indiscernible ] that is possible. What we explore in this exhibit is to really impact some of those stereotypes and the negative associations with that and to unravel myth from reality and figure out why do we have such an aversion to this and what are some of the real stories about cannibalism
In our collective human past, how come it has cannibalism then?
There has been genetic research conducted that -- prehistoric times humans eating other humans was not that unusual. It's not the inconceivable thing that we tend to think of it today but whether it was for ritual or survival, that we don't know because it was before written records. The consuming of other people by people has actually been in printed in our genes in some cases.
Apparently many ancient medical cures have included ingesting body parts.
Absolutely and it's not even that ancient. There are records and eyewitness accounts and this is in Europe, while Europeans are going out into the world and accusing people that -- that they didn't quite understand of being barbaric and Savage for consuming other humans weather was for ritual or funeral reasons, back in Europe it was part of mainstream cutting edge medicine to prescribe medicine made from human body parks. This is into at least 1830s. It's what historians are considering almost smarter.
Moderate in this would include drinking blood.
Yes. Drinking blood weather for prolonged life or restoring use or for epilepsy. There was a kind of ground-up school that was prescribed for some things that King Charles II being lead was so fond of that they actually called it Kings drops after him.
What will visitors see at the exhibition?
Visitors will see a really diverse and we help and engaging dynamic exhibit. We include pop-culture references to really help them come to sort of a -- begin with common ground so the base things of the probably expect to see but then we take them through this really fascinating journey of history, literature, the different ways of ideas that have about Kimmel cannibals and how we have the fixing our minds and then we will introduce them to some new and unexpected stories that are about the result of cannibalism. It's a very interactive exhibit and it's something that we hope is recommended for ages 10 and up and we hope will be engaging even for some older kids.
There's also a serious consideration about the people who used survival cannibalism. That could be thought of as people who work shipwrecked, people who actually even lived through the Andean plane crash in the 1970s. Remind us about that and how does that exhibit tackle that?
Absolutely. I think the stories about survival cannibalism or the ones that maybe are the most familiar to people and also the most relatable that is when you are stuck somewhere far from help and no sign of anybody coming, what would you do? In the case of the plane crash of the European team in the main -- Andes Mountains in 1972 they discovered by hearing over the radio that no one was coming. The pilots radio dish they were high up in the mountains and they talked about it and we feature clips from a documentary of them so you get to hear their actual own voices in the sharing how they came to the decision where they had to think about eating their dinner friends. They knew these people but at the end of the day they decided to think of it like communion. It was about restoring life and prolonging life and that their friends have given their bodies to them and thinking about their families. They decided they had to do everything possible.
It's interesting to in reading about the exhibition I didn't realize that before the late 19th century if sailors got shipwrecked, the idea of cannibalizing their dead fellow sailors was not illegal. That was just sort of par for the course.
Absolutely and it's not just cannibalizing because as you know that would be consuming -- this is actually about killing somebody in order to eat them. The first time that people did that and they were charged with murder was in 1884. These are known stories and they were in the news. In fact the story of the Essex and a mailing -- American Whaler which is a story that was featured in the heart of the sea which came out last year is a story that involves that kind of cannibalism. Ager thrall -- straws to figure out who would be the sacrifice.
This show reminds visitors how big a part of the subject cannibalism has played in our culture. What are the some of the moving and pop-culture references included in this show.
We have this really fun collection of references in some other paraphernalia. We have everything from silence of the lambs which is probably the thing people associate most -- most. To fried green tomatoes which some people have forgotten the reference but there is a great one if you want to remind yourself of that. We have clips from family Guy, it's always Sunny in Philadelphia, the IT crowd, greatest show. We have Sweeney Todd, Shakespeare Tempest, handling Gretel. Just looking at that collection of things will be really fun.
What kinds of false idea about cantaloupe -- cannibalism to help it puts to rest?
The first is that it's an incredible taboo that is as far from being human as you can be while still being human. And fact it's been practice all over the world for a very long time including by people that we usually don't associate. We want to really overturn the stereotype of cannibalism is a practice of people who are uncivilized and uncultured not like us. That is a negative stereotype that's been projected onto people to distance them from us. Actually that is not the reality.
People might be the -- there is an it factor. How much of an it factor there is?
There's Bell very little it factor. Wanted to make it accessible to the widest possible audience and emphasize more getting people to get into the shoes of people whether they were labeled as cannibals or actually had engaged in cannibalism. This is not about sin centralizing the topic at all. It will be more about imagining what it would be like to be in this situation and it will be about any kind of it can affect your.
You expect kids to see this show, it is family-friendly.
Maybe not for younger kids but we have basically set a limit from 10 and above and from anyone younger it's really up to the parent or guardian. We've tried as much as possible to make it something that sort of 10 and above can enjoy as well.
Amalie, working on this show it for as long as you have, you have been living with his exhibit and you have been living with all the things that people are going to see, does it make you wonder if you would ever result of cannibalism?
Absolutely. I don't think you could spend so much thought time with this topic about without thinking about what you do --
That is one of the parts of this exhibit.
Absolutely. We want people to think what would you do and to not judge different people's situations but imagine yourself in that and think about it. For me, because I do not have a sense of sort of the taboo with cannibalism having spent so much time with the topic so I wouldn't have a problem with providing sustenance to somebody or thinking about that if -- hopefully that never happens but if the situation arises I would not consider that beyond possibility.
Exactly. And you're right. I have been speaking with Emily Anderson and she is director of exhibit development at the San Diego Museum of Man and we have been talking about the new show cannibalism myth and reality. Emily, thank you so much.