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Looting, Hoarding, Collecting … Museums and Repatriation

From the spoils of war, to the issues of contemporary repatriation. LootingHoarding, Collecting explores the history of cultural property conflicts, the roles played in them by museums, and their lasting implications for the museum community and its constituencies. Societal acceptance of looting and hoarding, and the collecting of looted objects by museums have changed dramatically over the past decades, often leading museums of today to consider repatriating such artifacts.

With national and international cultural property law evolving and reforms in museum ethics and practices generating updated policies, museums are compelled to look at their collections with more scrutiny. Prominent players in museum policy development today include the International Council of Museums (ICOM), and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Many famous museums, including the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, have objects in their collections with questionable provenance.

Who is the rightful owner of these items? Is it the museum that claims to keep the objects safe from harm and available for the cultural enrichment of the masses? Or is it the original owner or country of origin of the item that demands their cultural property be returned?