Repatriating cultural artefacts and rebuilding relationships

theguardian– Your article (Cambridge college to be first in UK to return looted Benin bronze, 15 October) says that “after Jesus College announced its decision to return the Benin bronze in November 2019, a host of regional museums committed to or said they were also considering returning artefacts”. Such returns began much earlier than that. In 1998, Glasgow Museums returned the Lakota Ghost Dance shirt to the Lakota community after years of negotiation. The procedures that Glasgow city council developed included consultation with the public, and have been widely copied. Since then many non-national museums and other institutions have returned items to their cultures of origin.
Dr Ellen McAdam
Marston Green, West Midlands

Your article concerning the handover of a sculpture to Nigeria mentions the Gweagal protect, stated to have been taken by Captain Cook’s males on their first encounter with Indigenous Australians, and now within the British Museum. In truth, the protect held by the museum was just lately proven to not be that exact object (whose whereabouts are unknown); a gap was made not by gunshot, however a knot falling out. However, a number of the objects collected on the Endeavour’s voyage are in Britain, together with many different equally essential items, as revealed by a mission simply accomplished.

Over the previous decade the British Museum, the National Museum of Australia and the Australian National University have been working collectively, and with different museums and Indigenous folks, to document and determine Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander objects within the UK and Ireland. They discovered greater than 39,000 such items in almost 80 public collections, uncovering new tales by which the unique collectors and makers each play important elements.

The futures of museum collections and public statues are sometimes portrayed by lobbyists and media as a battle between retainers and disposers. The actual work is occurring behind the scenes: folks constructing new communities on the again of recent engagements and analysis – even round Benin bronzes, the place, for instance, the British Museum is a part of a global group planning a brand new museum for Benin City.
Mike Pitts
Editor, British Archaeology