remains throughout the process. The donor’s personal information is kept confidential, and only staff at
the FAC has access to this information.
Image of William M Bass building
The donor will be placed in a specified area within the FAC area, with markers placed nearby to identify it.
Some of the bodies will be left as they are, but others will be subjected to trauma, or placed in specific
positions, in order to simulate specific real-life circumstances. When entering this area, personnel go
through a ‘clean’ area to ensure they don’t bring any contamination on site, and also to ensure that
nothing is brought out of the facility. This involves an area allowing people to put on specific Personal
Protective Equipment (PPE). This PPE is disposable, i.e. gloves or overshoes.
The length of time the remains are left out will depend on the research being conducted. There is no
standard size for plots that are used for a single donor, mainly because the ground is not level and they
need to maximise the space used. Once the particular research project has concluded, the remains are
‘cleaned’ of flesh and the bones are added to the William M Bass donated skeletal collection. This
collection currently has nearly 1700 individuals, as well as over 50 cremated individuals. These skeletons
can be used for further research.
One of the problems identified by the AC regarding the demographics of the donors is that they tend to
be old white men, which limits the conclusions they can draw from their research. Part of the outreach
programme is to try to encourage donors from other demographics - young people, women, African
Americans and Hispanics.
Image of donated skeletal collection
The donor’s remains are not returned to their family, but become a part of the research collection
permanently. Instead, there is a memorial garden dedicated to all the donors. The FAC also keeps in
contact with families, and does outreach lectures and presentations so that what they do isn’t seen as
During my stay in Knoxville I spoke to a lot of the locals about the purpose of my research - visiting the
body farm. Everyone I spoke to was very supportive and proud of the facility. According to Dr Dawnie
Steadman, the current Director of the FAC, this public attitude is something that they work hard to
foster. The facility is surrounded by a tall wooden fence and a chain link fence with razor wire. The