Nature has an interesting news item called Online anthropology draws protest from aboriginal group:
As Europe’s museums begin archiving their collections in digital format, skeletons are emerging — and not just of the physical variety. One South African tribe already says it will oppose the inclusion of images of its people’s remains in any multimedia format. The University of Vienna has started to digitize the collection made in the early twentieth century by Rudolf Pöch, considered one of anthropology’s founding fathers. The project, headed by Maria Teschler-Nicola, will improve the collection’s accessibility for researchers and store the delicate material in a sustainable way, using electronic records of physiological measurements as well as two and three-dimensional scans. But the full collection, which includes human remains and thousands of ethnographic artefacts, was gathered using unethical methods, such as grave-robbing.
Although, in general, I am sympathetic to the idea of repatriation there are limits. One of those is when it completely cuts of the notion of the scientific study of human kind. I have always thought that the digitization of artifacts and skeletons was an excellent compromise between the demands of human dignity and the needs of the scientific community. This, in my opinion crosses that line.