“Cultural Reparations: The Drive to Deaccession in Museums”

Alexander Adams

Alexander Adams

Alexander Adams is an artist, critic and poet, based in the UK. He writes art criticism for The Critic, Standpoint, Apollo, Burlington Magazine, Print Quarterly, Printmaking Today, The Jackdaw and other publications. He publishes articles on censorship and free speech, as well as book reviews, on Spiked-Online.

“In November, the Horniman Museum returned Benin Bronzes to Nigeria (as announced in August) and Cambridge University pledged to return human skulls to Zimbabwe. Last week, Egypt requested the return of the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum and there have been reports of a discussion between the British Museum and Greek authorities regarding the Elgin Marbles. 

Barely a week goes by without news of repatriation of artefacts. So, why is this happening now?

Repatriation of items from one country to its supposed country of origin has been a hot topic for five years, since President Macron sent items from the French national collection to Burkina Faso. This is a form of deaccessioning, which is when a museum removes an item from its permanent collection. This can be by sale, exchange or destruction. The latter only usually for an object so deteriorated it is now worthless or dangerous. 

Although public museums in the UK rarely deaccession – it is effectively prohibited by legislation except in very limited circumstances – the practice is common in American museums…”

Read the full article for free here: https://www.lotuseaters.com/cultural-reparations-the-drive-to-deaccession-in-museums-16-12-22