History of Art / Classical Studies
When Repatriation is not Possible: Colonialist Trophies in the Form of World Art and What to Do with Them
The topic of repatriation –returning art and artefacts, including human remains, to their place and people of origin – is hotly debated in several subject areas, from art history to classics to archaeology. As western countries have begun to recognise their colonial pasts, the question of what to do with art acquired during periods of colonisation has become an important and pressing issue. While many call for the repatriation of all art and artefacts, such a task remains a significant challenge due to a number of legal and logistical obstacles. This article explores potential uses for world art collections in museums and how we might come to a compromise that is both respectful to indigenous cultures and maximises the educational potential of these objects. Opening channels of communication between institutions and cultures could allow greater mobility of objects and knowledge through loans, educational programming, and mutually beneficial relationships between institutions and people.