You have /5 articles left.
Sign up for a free account or log in.

The associate curator at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, who was publicly accused of mishandling human remains from the infamous MOVE bombing in 1985, has left her museum position.

Spokespeople for the university and the museum, known as Penn Museum, didn’t answer Inside Higher Ed’s questions about why Janet Monge is no longer in the museum role, and they didn’t clarify whether Monge is still employed as an adjunct anthropology professor. A Penn Museum spokesperson confirmed via email that the museum no longer employs Monge but didn’t explain why.

In 1985, Philadelphia police circled in on the headquarters of a Black separatist group called MOVE. After a standoff, police bombed the town house via helicopter, killing six MOVE members and five of their children and starting a fire that burned more than 60 other homes.

In April 2021, WHYY’s Billy Penn reported that human remains from the bombing, believed to be those of two children, had been at Penn Museum for decades. Billy Penn reported that the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office gave them to a former professor in the ’80s for analysis, and that Monge was the professor’s student at the time.

Billy Penn also reported that Monge re-analyzed the remains when she later became a curator at the museum. The revelation that Penn had kept the remains, and that Monge had used them when she was teaching an online course for Princeton University, led to public controversy. Monge filed a lawsuit against the University of Pennsylvania, Billy Penn and other media outlets and journalists in 2022.

Monge predicted in the lawsuit that she would be dismissed. It alleges that, in August 2021, “she was informed that she would no longer be able to teach any of her current classes, be an adjunct professor, or even be an associate curator at the Penn Museum, and was being demoted to Museum Keeper.” The lawsuit asserts that the “demotion was affected by a salary cut of $65,000 per year for the following two years of her employment, upon which Penn would deem Dr. Monge as retired.”

Monge, whom Inside Higher Ed was unable to contact Thursday, says in her lawsuit that “Initially as a graduate student and then over the course of her entire career, Dr. Monge tried to identify the Jane Doe Fragments, which were never properly identified as belonging to any member of the MOVE family, by conducting extensive research and even attempting to contact known MOVE family members to gain their cooperation and conclusively identify the remains as being any of the known victims of the MOVE bombing.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer, another target of Monge’s lawsuit, reported that the city “officially identified the remains as 14-year-old Katricia ‘Tree’ Dotson Africa,” but Monge disagreed and never returned the remains to relatives of the bombing victims.