Restitution and repatriation: perspectives from university museums and collections

Steph Scholten, Michael Pickering, Neil Curtis (Contributor), Bankole Sodipo (Contributor), Esme Ward (Contributor), Mangubadijarri Yanner (Contributor), Andrew Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstractpeer-review


Through 2020 and 2021 UMAC has undertaken an “Ethics of Repatriation and Restitution” study in partnership with other ICOM groups (ETHCOM, ICME and ICOM Australia), and with UNIVERSEUM, the European network of university museums. Meeting ICOM’s commitment to research and address issues of decolonization, the project looks at guidance for museums and collections in universities on the issue of restitution and repatriation. It aims to raise awareness and sensitivity in universities and their museums and collections, by suggesting guidance, based on the state-of-the-art knowledge and practice in the wider museum community. A number of international meetings have been held and a range of individual cases of repatriation and restitution in universities have been discussed. Draft guidelines, intended to complement the existing ICOM Code of Ethics, are being proposed. We are seeking consultation and feedback on the draft from interested parties through the month of September, 2021.

The experience of university collections as case study examples for restitution and repatriation has proven pertinent because this sector has historically represented (and still does) a primary source of knowledge production in the broadest sense. Universities were at the centre of the cultural and political power of empires as knowledge generating organisations. Cultural and heritage dimensions were often disregarded and eclipsed by perceptions of the scientific value of an artefact. Knowledge from natural and man-made objects contributed to imperial economic power. A process of change that recognises and includes different knowledge systems is already underway in some universities. The roundtable will discuss how and why university museums and collections are templates for driving this change using individual examples as illustrations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-84
Number of pages2
JournalUniversity Museums and Collections Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
EventUMAC-UNIVERSEUM 2021: New Opportunities & New Challenges in Times of COVID-19 - On-line
Duration: 1 Sep 20213 Sep 2021


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