In what will be the largest-ever repatriation of cultural artifacts from a Scottish Museum, the Glasgow City Council has voted to return a number of cultural artifacts from its museum collections.
The artifacts to be repatriated include seven Indian antiquities, seventeen bronze Benin artifacts to Nigeria, and twenty-five cultural items from Lakota people in South Dakota, USA
The decision to return the looted artifacts was taken when the Glasgow City Council’s cross-party Working Group for Repatriation and Spoliation met on the 1st of March and recommended the return of requested cultural artifacts to their originating communities, this was approved at a meeting of the council’s City Administration Committee on 7th of April.
Six of the artifacts were stolen from Hindu temples and shrines during the 19th century, while the seventh was illegally purchased, sold and smuggled out of India. All seven items were subsequently gifted to the city’s museum collection.
The Indian government has agreed to meet the full cost of the return of the artifacts, and a meeting is planned this month to consider the logistical issues including export licenses and potential costs.
The council has also agreed to return 17 bronze Benin artifacts to Nigeria, having established that the objects were taken from ancestral altars at the Royal Court of Benin during the British Punitive Expedition of 1897.
The cost of returning the artifacts is estimated to be around £30,000 and discussions continue on the most cost-effective way to repatriate them, bearing in mind other repatriation requests currently being considered by other UK museums.
Finally, Glasgow will fund the repatriation of 25 Lakota cultural items that were sold and donated to the city’s museum collection by George Crager in 1892. Some of these items were taken from the Wounded Knee Massacre site following the battle in December 1890, some were personal items belonging to named ancestors, and the remainder is ceremonial items, all of which represent the belief, history, and values of the Oceti Sakowin.
The cost of repatriation to the Le Beau family, who are representing the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe, could cost as much as £40,000.
“The return of these objects from Glasgow Life Museums’ collection to their rightful owners represents the largest-ever repatriation of cultural artifacts from a Scottish museum and is a significant moment for our city – specifically, the repatriation of seven Indian antiquities is the first of its kind to India from a UK museum,” said Duncan Dornan, the head of museums and collections at Glasgow Life.
“By addressing past wrongs, we believe these returns will, in a small way, help these descendant communities to heal some of the wounds represented by the wrongful removal of their cultural artifacts, and lead to the development of positive and constructive relationships between Glasgow and communities around the world.”