Monday, September 26, 2011

* Socially Redeeming Value ?

(link to YDN article)


Professor Derek E.K. Briggs, Director
The Peabody Museum
Yale University

Dear Mr Briggs,

In 1976 I had the privilege of serving on the Mayor of Hamden’s Bicentennial Commission and negotiated donation of the furniture and memorabilia from Thornton Wilder’s study to the Town, now on permanent display in Miller Library in Hamden.  At Yale that next year as a student I negotiated creation of the Kent State Collection at Sterling Memorial Library’s Manuscripts and Archives Division. Recently I have created a digital gallery to display the works of the late Adirondack artist, Dorothy Hoyt.

Each of these projects has socially redeeming value. 

Could you please tell me what socially redeeming value exists in the Peabody Museum’s display sixty years ago (which I saw with my own child’s eyes) of nine jars of formaldehyde each containing the continuum of nine months in the process zygote /embryo /fetus ? 

This exhibit was displayed in the 1950’s when it was even socially unacceptable to subject a live infant to a movie camera, for fear that such an instance would constitute exploitation.

The exhibit existed four blocks from the concomitant daily protest against the alleged violation by Planned Parenthood of the sanctity of human life, a protest organized  by Roman Catholics reciting the Rosary on their knees on the sidewalk in front of the Orange Street Planned Parenthood office, a  few blocks from the Peabody.

In retrospect, it seems to me the Peabody exhibit was insensitive if not disrespectful, especially since there was no information attached to the exhibit explaining the avenues of  maternal permission which led to the exhibit and the ultimate fate of the components of the exhibit.

I addressed these questions to you in a letter 18 months ago which you have not found convenient to acknowledge or answer. It can be read at

Yours sincerely,

Paul D. M. Keane

M. Div. ‘80
M.A., M.Ed.

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