In 2014, we reported the University of Mississippi Medical Center believed there could be as many as 2,000 bodies buried on their campus. They have just discovered that number could be as high as 7,000.
“We ask the questions, ‘How many more are there?’ explained Dr. Ralph Didlake, the Director of UMMC’s Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities. “And with that question comes ‘What is our responsibility to manage the situation responsibly?'”
UMMC wanted to construct a parking garage, and during the routine assessment of the area, they found 66 new burial sites of patients at the Mississippi Asylum for the Insane, which from 1855 to 1935 stood on what’s now the UMMC campus.
Additional cultural surveys led them to find many, many more grave sites – possibly up to 7000.
“We will exhume as many as we can, and we will archive or curate the remains as scientific specimens, and then our plan is to place them in a functional memorial structure,” said Dr. Didlake.
Estimates to relocate each of the bodies run at a minimum of $21 million dollars.
So instead, UMMC wants to build a memorial to honor the patients’ legacies and make them available for research.
Archeologists, anthropologists, and historians would be able to study the remnants of the bodies, clothing, and coffins of patients in a 19th-century mental institution.
“What was the experience of these individuals? What can their remains tell us about their experience in a 19th-century mental health institution?” said Dr. Didlake, explaining what lessons might be learned from the former patients.
The Center for Bioethics says right now they have no plans to identify the patients, but they would be open to allowing that sort of research.
“These individuals represent all 82 counties in Mississippi, and we want to be respectful, and we want to be deeply engaged in the descendant community,” said Dr. Didlake.
Source: MS News Now