The University of Iowa Stanford Collection is a partially documented collection of human skeletal remains available for scholarly research. This collection represents early 20th century residents of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Inquiries about the Stanford Collection or other human remains housed at the OSA should be directed to Lara Noldner.

About the Collection

The individuals in the Stanford Collection are mostly from immigrant populations that took up residency in California in late 1800s to early 1900s. All were either too impoverished to afford a funeral or had no family to claim them, so they were made available for medical school dissection. Many elements (skulls and vertebrae) were sectioned with saw cuts. Very few skulls are complete, and most individuals are edentulous. The long bones are generally completely intact. There are around 1100 total individuals.


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The number of individuals with associated documentation is 230. This documentation includes: name, place of death, place of birth, birth and death dates, birth places of parents, ancestry, sex, age, occupation, cause of death, residency dates for the U.S. and California, marital status, name of spouse, and name of attending physician.

Of these documented individuals, 31 are females of Euro-American descent and range in age from 46-91. There are 199 males of Euro-American, Asian, or Mexican descent, ranging from 27-96 years in age.

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Acknowledgment of Structural Inequality

The OSA is committed to building a better understanding of the life histories of individuals in the University of Iowa Stanford Collection as well as to contributing to more humanistic and ethical approaches to human osteological collections. Research that incorporates contributions from students and researchers from a variety of institutions is ongoing to develop accurate context for the collection and the numerous and diverse life pathways represented. It is also our goal to integrate input from both scientific and descendant communities and other stakeholders in our research, and transparently and constructively confront the structural inequality that led to many of the individuals’ incorporation into the collection.