Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Nelson, A. J.

2nd Supervisor

Walsh, A.



Knowledge mobilization – the process of creating, disseminating, and using knowledge to generate real-world value and impact – is essential in research. The highly contextual nature of human remains poses unique challenges for successful bioarchaeological knowledge mobilization, requiring these projects to address historico-cultural, sociopolitical, and ethical contexts in order to mobilize knowledge in a way that is both accurate and appropriate for diverse communities. This thesis considers the way that museums, as places of community heritage and engagement, may serve as knowledge brokers, facilitating meaningful interactions between researchers and the wider public. Exploring museum professional perspectives in conjunction with an analysis of bioarchaeological exhibit websites and a case study of Guanajuato, Mexico, this study establishes key factors of successful bioarchaeological knowledge mobilization in museums, identifies potential barriers to these processes, and generates a list of informed questions to guide the development of future bioarchaeological knowledge mobilization projects.

Summary for Lay Audience

Human remains and their treatment after death can provide unique insight into an individual’s life and their culture. Within North America, bioarchaeology largely refers to the study of human remains from archaeological sites in order to learn about life (and death) in past societies and cultures. The findings of bioarchaeological research can influence how we view the histories and identities of different groups of people across time and, as a result, have social, political, and cultural significance for our understandings of people in both the past and the present. This widespread applicability of bioarchaeological research means that its meaning and relevance will vary across communities. This diversity in perspective relates to the spectrum of opinions that can exist about death, the proper treatment of the dead, and the place of those who have passed among the living. Additionally, the history and legacy of bioarchaeology as a contributor to colonization efforts and the marginalization of certain communities often impacts how people interact with this research. For these reasons, it is important to understand how bioarchaeological research projects may create and share knowledge in ways that are meaningful and beneficial for diverse communities. This process of creation and sharing may be referred to as bioarchaeological knowledge mobilization. When bringing together groups of people who may have diverse backgrounds and perspectives, it can be useful to look at partners in these projects who might act as mediators, bridging these communities so as to allow for better communication. These partners are referred to as knowledge brokers, and museums, as places for public heritage experiences, may play this role in bioarchaeological knowledge mobilization projects. With this in mind, this thesis presents discussions with museum professionals, analyses of museum exhibit websites, and the author’s personal experiences in Guanajuato, Mexico to explore the foundational elements of effective bioarchaeological knowledge mobilization in museums, the types of value and impact these projects create with their communities, and suggest a list of questions to help guide the creation of future bioarchaeological knowledge mobilization projects.