X for Xperimental solutions in the Blogging from A to Z challenge.
This month I’m Xploring online jewellery collections. What you can find, what you can do with it, what it means to have visual access to all these objects (goodies!) from wherever you are. And wherever the objects are. And wherever they come from.
One thing with museums is this: A lot of the items in the collections come from other parts of the world. Not all of it was willingly handed over or rightfully sold from the locals to the foreign collectors or authorities. Some was brought back as trophies after wars won. Some was stolen.
We understand the historical background to this, and we can not change the chain of events from the past. But should we try and put things right now? If so, how? And if so, what is right?
It’s called art repatriation, when museums return objects to their place of origin. This is a new field for me too so I will not pretend to be an expert here, but simply share a few links that I found interesting as I was searching.
Art repatriation according to Wikipedia.
This house would return cultural property residing in museums to its place of origin (from idebate.org, an online debate space, with an overview of arguments against and for, plus and extensive bibliography, June 2012).
Lots of links here, I know, but this just shows how one case is different from another. Different countries involved, different stories, success stories and failures, tough political conflicts and diplomatic negotiations.
Seeking Return of Art, Turkey Jolts Museums (The New York Times, 30 September 2012)
Ill-gotten gains: how many museums have stolen objects in their collections? (The Verge, 13 May 2013)
What Happens When Museums Return Antiquities? (Hyperallergic, 18 March 2014)
Vision of home – Repatriated Works Back in their Countries of Origin (The New York Times, 17 April 2014)
As I said, this field is new to me. I was however wondering especially if digitization plays any role here, either as an argument against or for repatriation. Of course it depends on the kind of object. A sculpture is something else than jewellery, ceramics, tools, etc. Can a digital archive somehow make the options less black-white? Can objects gain a sense of “neutral location”? Is the important thing where they are physically located or what stories they tell?
Here some related sources on this aspect:
Digital Repatriation Through an Aboriginal Art Archive (Hyperallergic, 22 August 2013).
After the Return: Digital repatriation and the Circulation of Indigenous Knowledge (Museum Anthropology Review, Vol 7, No 1-2, 2013)
I also came across some critical voices, but didn’t manage to explore them much (due to broken links, or only short abstracts).
Wow, this was a mouthful…
Just to say that history evolves as an ongoing Xperiment, with trials and errors, old ideas mixed with new insights.