British Museum

Kenya’s Pokomo people ask the British to return what was stolen: Their source of power

Title: Kenya’s Pokomo people ask the British to return what was stolen: Their source of power
Author: Max Bearak
Media Outlet: The Washington Post
Publish Date: August 9, 2019

“That drum, the ngadji, the source of power and pride for the Pokomo, has been relegated to a storage room in the British Museum in London for 111 years.

The theft of the ngadji by British colonial officers is a story well-known among the eldest Pokomo. The British Museum, too, acknowledges the ngadji was “confiscated” before being donated to its collections in 1908. The museum also acknowledges a request by the Pokomo community for its return.

(…) “We cannot return to the old days. The world has changed, not just the Pokomo,” Mjidho said. “Yes, the ngadji’s return would restore our pride. It might inspire our youth to look beyond the hopeless world that has been created around them.”

British Museum Workers Issue Statement in Support of Trustee Who Resigned

Title: British Museum Workers Issue Statement in Support of Trustee Who Resigned
Author: Hakim Bishara
Media Outlet: Hyperallergic
Publish Date: July 22, 2019

“Ahdaf’s actions highlight, once again, the troubling nature of the relationship between BP and the arts,” the PCS union statement said. “Through its sponsorship of our most prestigious cultural institutions, BP is allowed to propagate the myth that, without its existence, we would not have access to the collections of our publicly funded museums and galleries,” the workers added, reiterating their position that “access to culture is a human right, not a privilege bestowed by large corporations.”

On Resigning from the British Museum’s Board of Trustees

Title: On Resigning from the British Museum’s Board of Trustees
Author: Ahdaf Soueif
Media Outlet: London Review of Books
Publish Date: July 15, 2019

The British Museum, born and bred in empire and colonial practice, is coming under scrutiny. And yet it hardly speaks. (…) Any story the museum chooses to tell must finally be judged in context: that is, in relation to how it behaves – where it gets its money, how it treats its workers, and who it considers partners.

Kenya creates a database to show just where its stolen cultural artefacts are

Title: Kenya creates a database to show just where its stolen cultural artefacts are
Author: Gurmeet Singh
Media Outlet: Fairplanet.org
Publish Date: June 28, 2019

“(…) Databases such as this may actually be more effective in the long-run than government lobbying. If the wider public is able to access a database which shows which objects were wrongfully acquired and where they currently reside, it might do more to raise awareness of the issue than elite-level political discussion.”

Europe and burden of looted African artefacts: Reparation or repatriation?

Title: Europe and burden of looted African artefacts: Reparation or repatriation?
Author: Gregory Austin Nwakunor
Media Outlet: The Guardian Arts
Publish Date: June 23, 2019

“Aside from Nigeria, Egypt has equally been consistent in their campaign to recover looted artefacts. Last week, Egypt began a process to halt the auction of a 3,000-year-old stone sculpture of the famed boy pharaoh Tutankhamun at Christie’s in London, while the auction house said its sale was legal.

The statue — a brown quartzite head depicting King Tut — is scheduled to be auctioned off in July, and could generate more than $5 million, according to Christie’s.”

British Museum 'has head in sand' over return of artefacts

Title: British Museum 'has head in sand' over return of artefacts
Author: Lanre Bakare
Media Outlet: The Guardian
Publish Date: June 21, 2019

The authors of an influential report on colonial-era artefacts, which recommended a restitution programme to transfer hundreds of items from European institutions to Africa, have criticised the British Museum for acting like “an ostrich with its head in the sand”.

(…) “There’s a symbolic dimension around property rights,” added Savoy. “If you can loan your objects you are respected in the museum world because you can impose your will and conditions. In the capitalist sphere being able to loan gives you power and it means you can impose your own rights.”

British Museum must recognise its own powers in matters of restitution

Title: British Museum must recognise its own powers in matters of restitution
Author: Alexander Herman
Media Outlet: The Art Newspaper
Publish Date: May 29, 2019

“Case of Ethiopian tabots shows that trustees' hands are not tied when it comes to the disposal of certain items from the collection.

The British Museum seems to enjoy telling the world about its statutory restrictions. Whenever would-be claimants approach the museum seeking restitution of an object from the collection, the almost mechanical response from the museum is that its trustees are prevented from doing so, even if they wanted to, because of the onerous restrictions on deaccessioning collection items found within the British Museum Act 1963.

(…) There is a specific provision that allows the British Museum trustees to give away items from the collection if the trustees deem them to be “unfit” for retention in the collection and that the removal would not be detrimental to the interests of students.

Activists Return to the British Museum to Lead Another “Stolen Goods” Tour

Title: Activists Return to the British Museum to Lead Another “Stolen Goods” Tour
Author: Naomi Polonsky
Media Outlet: Hyperallergic
Publish Date: May 8, 2019

“On the Facebook event, the tour’s organizers wrote: “Refusing to return colonially-stolen artefacts is bad enough, depriving cultures around the world of vital parts of their history and glossing over the violence of colonialism. But to make things even worse the British Museum is also promoting BP, an oil company that’s threatening the lands and livelihoods of many of the same communities that those looted artefacts came from.”

Museums in the changing world order: Restitution to Africa reaches tipping point

Title: Museums in the changing world order: Restitution to Africa reaches tipping point
Author: Adrian Ellis
Media Outlet: The Art Newspaper
Publish Date: April 5, 2019

“The British Museum appears to be maintaining the position of the Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums, signed by 18 peer institutions (but not the British Museum) in 2002: respect the law as it stands, not as it could stand; avoid the slippery slope to depletion to which any concession potentially leads; acknowledge the wide range of circumstances in which objects were acquired rather than generalising from the most egregious cases; remember the first duty of stewardship and ensure at all costs that objects are safe from conservational lapses or theft; keep objects where they can be seen in the broadest global and historical context; do not forget that the geopolitical entities requesting their “return” are rarely the entities from which they were taken; and look for imaginative alternatives to permanent restitution, such as curatorial exchanges and long-term loans. And generally, one might reasonably add, say as little as possible about these issues in public.”