Xperimental solutions

X for XXperimental 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.

UNESCO 1970 Convention on Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property.

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).

News articles

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.






6 thoughts on “Xperimental solutions

      • The list changes daily and I found it at the end of the day.
        I wish I took a screenshot!
        (WP is supposed to notify people who appear on the list. Maybe there’s a glitch)
        Anyway . . . congrats–A-Z–for your work!

  1. Thank you very much for this great post – as usual very informative and thought-provoking.
    Art repatriation must be addressed, but how and to what extent? You are posing excellent questions.
    In Western Canada, where I live, the village of Alert Bay is a poignant and ultimately successful example of this issue. Most of the artifacts that had been confiscated after the potlachs and traditional dances had been banned have been returned to the Kwakwaka’wakw people and are now housed in the Umista Centre (www.umista.org). Umista (which means “return of our treasures”) is now at the heart of a proud and vibrant community. I visited last summer for the third time in almost thirty years, and witnessed the positive changes brought about by the repatriation (I posted a few pictures on my blog).
    But would this work anywhere? I am not sure. There are so many factors that come into play.

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