T O P
chairswinger

Last year I was in a Museum in Cologne which had a special "event" concerning colonialism, I liked the general idea but thought the execution was horrible. It was meant to showcase looted art and stereotyping but what they did was just cover up the pieces. You couldn't see them. They also had several containers placed in a hall which said to contain records and photographs and other pieces from the colonial era but well, all you saw were containers with some text on it. I don't mind reading in a Museum, on the contrary, but I think a better way would have been to mark the problematic artifacts/photographs as such and maybe make a plaque showing what was edited or done to make it look more stereotypical. In the end I guess it was supposed to be more artistic than educational but going into a Museum to see "nothing" (there were still pieces to see, it was just that basically half was covered) felt bad. It wasn't done by the Museum itself but by a group focused on decolonisation, obviously in cooperation with the Museum. Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, have fun pronouncing that :P


CantHonestlySayICare

I mean, it's the right thing to do, but Nigeria is a failing state, so they may end up regretting that they didn't leave those heirlooms in German custody a while longer.


whataTyphoon

>Germany has physically handed over two Benin bronzes and put more than 1,000 other items from its museums’ collections into Nigeria’s ownership, more than a century after they were looted by British soldiers from the once powerful kingdom in west Africa. Can't read the full article but that sounds like they only really gave them those two statues while most of the other items are still in germany, but under nigerian ownership. Not that bad of a solution - the artifacts are still safe in a functional country but techncially belong to nigeria.


CountVonTroll

Yes, this is about transfer of ownership. The Nigerian government knows that they wouldn't have the capacity to house them adequately if some trucks showed up tomorrow, unloaded boxes, and drove off again. The important thing is that it's their call now. The Nigerian government appears to be generally well informed about the security situation in Nigeria, and Nigerian museum curators seem to care about the preservation of Nigeria's cultural heritage just as much as some concerned Redditors, perhaps even more so. The agreement includes a cooperation where Germany will provide support for the construction of a museum in Benin City to house the bronzes appropriately. Some are also expected to remain in Germany on a long-term loan, for the time being.


-Prophet_01-

That's an issue with many artifacts from the colonial years. There's also a huge dinosaur skeleton in a Berlin museum that Tanzania wants back. They don't really have a place to put it though. Apparently their latest pitch was an open-air exhibition which is really not a good idea. That particular case is further complicated though. Restauration of it was a *huge* undertaking and took many years and countless dedicated experts. It might be more appropriate to negotiate a shared agreement and move it back and forth every decade or so. Other artifacts should just be given back as soon as appropriate storage is available. Many of them are just in storage anyway.


chairswinger

the Quadriga on top of the Brandenburg gate barely survived being transported to France, I wouldn't want to subject ancient fossils to the same thing every 10 years, or ever


Al_Dutaur_Balanzan

it was the same excuse that the curator of the Louvre used to prevent the painting [Supper in Canaan](https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e0/Paolo_Veronese_008.jpg) by Veronese that stands in the same room where the Monna Lisa is displayed. Funny how Napoleon's troops had no concerns about it when they took it to Paris.


ALF839

They didn't have concerns because they didn't care and didn't know better, we do care and we do know better.


Sualtam

Moving that thing is a logistical nightmare. I think rather at the same site there are new excavations. If another big dinosaur is found, Germany will prepare the fossils into a modell and that's then staying in Tanzania.


-Prophet_01-

Good point


OldRabies

That's the same reasoning the Nazi did when they plundered art all over the world. It's not a good reason to steal it, and the German government has done the right right thing by deciding to return it. Edit: and I'd like to add that this is the last of good German things done by Scholtz, despite all the bad rep it gets.


TheMidwestMarvel

I used to fall on this side until the great Brazil fire destroyed thousands of artifacts due to the museum not having enough money to pay for water in their sprinkler system. I think a good compromise would be Germany paying Nigeria a yearly fee with the money being earmarked for historic preservation.


Al_Dutaur_Balanzan

doesn't matter. It wasn't their shit anyway.


Reimiro

They are building a new museum for Edo/Benin Kingdom artworks.


CantHonestlySayICare

I didn't doubt Nigerian government's ability to put those bronzes somewhere, but their ability to protect them from the assortment of armed separatist, extremist or criminal organizations roaming Nigeria more or less unchecked.


Kingofghostmen

The places with separatists groups are further from that museum than Kyiv is from the front line. You don’t really know much about Nigeria do you?


plumulites

Private collectors going to have a field day.


VigorousElk

Ultimately there should be a compromise between handing objects back to the countries of origins, and keeping things accessible to as many people as possible. There are a lot more issues to consider than just *'It came from there, it has to go back to there!'*: a) **Who is the rightful owner?** Some artefacts were outright stolen, or 'legally' transferred by ultimately illegitimate colonial administrations - these should legally belong to the host countries. Others were actually properly bought - quite often at discount prices, but still. If I make a bad deal selling something I cannot go back later and whine that I want it back. You can make a moral claim here, maybe, but ultimately a certain percentage of objects claimed by countries of origin legally belong to other countries. b) **Culture and art should be accessible to as many people around the world as possible.** It is one of the great achievements of globalisation that a German does not have to fly to China to see Chinese artefacts and learn about its history and culture, that in turn a Chinese can see European renaissance art in Beijing rather than having to fly to Florence or Paris. Ultimately the balance is still very much tilted towards Western countries hoarding African, Latin American and Asian art, with far fewer Western artefacts held by the other side, but in principle the attitude that e.g. Egypt should own all Egyptian artefacts is nonsensical. The country is chock full with Ancient statues, mummies, busts and what not, and it does not hurt having some of them spread around the world for people to see. c) Developed countries are far better at **preserving and safeguarding** historical pieces than many of the developing nations these came from. Some of that could be remedied by deals, where for example a Western nation e.g. returns a number of artefacts to the country of origin, but gets to keep others, and in return for getting to keep some it helps the country of origin in preserving and safeguarding those returned by lending expertise and contributing funds. I think that should be the default approach to solve claims by politically stable countries of origin, e.g. between Germany and Namibia. This still ignores the issue of political instability and corruption though. Priceless artefacts were destroyed during the Arab spring in the Middle East - Palmyra was partially destroyed by ISIS, the Egyptian museum in Cairo was looted in 2011, parts of ancient Timbuktu destroyed by Islamists militias in 2012 ... Nigeria is a failed state with constant Islamist terror attacks, and we all know how Islamists view non-Islamic (and sometimes even Islamic) cultural heritage. How long until these Benin bronzes fall into the wrong hands? In these cases I guess Western countries should continue to hold on to those pieces, no matter how much the countries of origin complain. If they evidently aren't capable of protecting this heritage, then they shouldn't have it.


Confused_Idol

> Who is the rightful owner? The concept of a transaction or contract being rendered null and void due to it being exploitative is a thing, at least where I am from. Where there still some legal sales? Yes. But just beciase money changed hands doesn’t mean it was a legitimate transaction. >B) Culture and art should be accessible to as many people around the world as possible Wouldn’t it make more sense to send them home then? It’s a lot cheaper, and easier in terms of getting authorization to travel , to enter nations in Africa, south east Asia and South America than it is for the people in those places to enter Europe and North America. People in the west have more disposable income to travel in the first place. Artefacts being kept in Europe make it easier for Europeans. And that’s it. There is no global gain here. > C) Developed countries are far better at preserving and safeguarding This rings incredibly hallow when the west is too often the catalyst for destabilizing those regions in the first place. And I don’t just mean during colonization and decolonization. My own country is one of the worst modern offenders. But even then I don’t see it as an argument for them to stay in the looters hands and continue to generate tourism and revenue in the meantime. If safe keeping is really a priority, then arrange to transfer them to a neutral 3rd party nation that is both safe and that was not involved in the looting to begin with (with permission from the country of origin) until such a time the country of origin can be stabilized. Or set up a UN trust to hold them. Or allow the art to be hosted in the embassies of the country of origin in a safe region. There are a variety of options that both keep them safe while not allowing them to remain in the hands of the people who stole them to begin with.


VigorousElk

>The concept of a transaction or contract being rendered null and void due to it being exploitative is a thing, at least where I am from. Yes, today, but was it back then? We don't usually go and retroactively apply 21st century law to 19th or early 20th century dealings. ​ >Wouldn’t it make more sense to send them home then? It’s a lot cheaper, and easier in terms of getting authorization to travel , to enter nations in Africa, south east Asia and South America than it is for the people in those places to enter Europe and North America. People in the west have more disposable income to travel in the first place. > >Artefacts being kept in Europe make it easier for Europeans. And that’s it. There is no global gain here. You are proposing people travel around the world to see stuff, which a) ignores the fact that even in Europe a lot of people cannot afford frequent (or any) inter-continental air travel, so it would benefit the (upper) middle and upper class, and no one else, b) is a terrible idea in a world threatened by climate change, and c) ignores my proposal that artefacts should be spread between the countries of origin and other countries, so they are accessible (to some extent) everywhere. ​ >This rings incredibly hallow when the west is too often the catalyst for destabilizing those regions in the first place. In some cases, yes, in others definitely not. We cannot keep blaming the West for every bit of shit going down in the Middle East or Africa - a lot of those problems are home made by now. ​ >If safe keeping is really a priority, then arrange to transfer them to a neutral 3rd party nation that is both safe and that was not involved in the looting to begin with (with permission from the country of origin) That's incredibly naive - the home countries want the stuff back, they don't want it to be transferred to some third party country or hosted in an embassy.


Confused_Idol

> Yes, today, but was it back then? We don't usually go and retroactively apply 21st century law to 19th or early 20th century dealings. The idea of giving them back, at all, is only due to modern sensibility. Otherwise we still be saying to the victor goes the spoils. So yes. > Your proposing people travel around the world to see stuff, which a) ignores the fact that even in Europe a lot of people cannot afford frequent (or any) inter-continental air travel, so it would benefit the (upper) middle and upper class, and no one else, b) is a terrible idea in a world threatened by climate change, and c) ignores my proposal that artefacts should be spread between the countries of origin and other countries, so they are accessible (to some extent) everywhere. A) And yet Europe accounts for something like 35% of global outbound intercontinental travel. B) that hasn’t stopped plenty of European nations from encouraging tourism to their countires or lead to them discouraging their citizens for engaging in global tourism so I find this to be a dishonest argument. The number of people flying just to see an art exhibit will be infintismsmaly small number of travelers compared to the ones who were already traveling and added the art exhibit to their list of things to do while they were already there. I highly doubt the overall number of tourists would change, just the distribution. C) This is already a thing. Museums voluntarily loan out exhibits all the time. But any future deal going forward cannot be made about looted artifacts while the stolen artifacts while some countires are still abroad. It’s like stealing someone’s kid and saying you’ll only give it back if they agree to give you joint custody. It’s extortion. Give them back first. Then We will talk. > In some cases, yes, in others definitely not. We cannot keep blaming the West for every bit of shit going down in the Middle East or Africa - a lot of those problems are home made by now. One of the examples you put forward was Isis. So I stand by what I said. > That's incredibly naive - the home countries want the stuff back, they don't want it to be transferred to some third party country or hosted in an embassy. I think it’s equally naive to believe the reason governments around the globe have been reluctant to return artefacts is due to security concerns or lofty ideals of global humanism and not the simple fact they don’t want to let go of their valuable looted treasure. And doesn’t this also apply to your proposals? They don’t want to share their artefacts. They want them back. So this feels like a hypocritical criticism. But even if the countires in question reject the deal, that’s not a reason not to make the attempt. At That point the ball is in their court and the west can at least say they put real effort in.


mrnodding

Meanwhile, The British Museum when Athens wants the Parthenon marbles back: "The museum is always willing to consider requests to borrow any objects from the collection". Good on Germany for doing the right thing!


WoodSteelStone

[Other European museums with pieces from the Parthenon in their collections:](https://www.google.com/amp/s/archaeology-travel.com/museums/the-parthenon-marbles-in-the-louvre/amp/) the Louvre Museum, the Vatican, Denmark’s National Museum, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the University Museum in Würzburg and the Glyptothek in Munich. In 2008 the Vatican loaned the piece to Greece for one year and [in 2010 Greece returned it back to the Vatican.](http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8620640.stm)


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tonygoesrogue

inb4 Brits start making up new excuses as to why upholding stolen artifacts from an EU country is ok


DomesticatedElephant

It's always been bad faith. The British museum has like 700 Benin Bronzes in their collection. They could hand back 90% and still have enough to fill a display.


Al_Dutaur_Balanzan

yeah, but if they did it with the Benin bronzes, they would start a precedent and if they did it with the rest of their stuff, they'd end up with an exhibition that fits into a single cabinet.


Dr_McKay

I support giving artefacts back, though I’m curious why do you think an EU country should get special treatment in this matter over a non eu country?


tonygoesrogue

Because the argument about "protecting" them does not stand. Athens is not a war-torn city nor is it threatened by ISIS for example


Reimiro

Protecting them really shouldn’t be in the conversation. It’s either theirs or it’s not. No one’s business except the owners.


tonygoesrogue

Well the possession of the sculptures by the British Museum is by no means legitimate, but it's good to clarify that there is absolutely no reason for them to be held hostages


Buda_Baba

Because UK already used "Greece doesn't have adequate facilities", and Greece made a new one. It would be nice for once that UK stop weaseling around and do what's right.


Individual_Cattle_92

No excuse needed. It's just ok.


No-Sheepherder5481

Because as its been explained multiple times, the museum owns them in trusteeship not the government and maybe in Greece the government can just steal what it wants from private businesses and citizens but that's not how it works in the UK. Here we have laws and rights Secondly, they literally have the receipts.


tonygoesrogue

1st, did you just patronize me (iN mY aDvAnCeD nAtIoN tHiNgS wOrK pRoPeRly)? Typical chauvinistic behavior, you showed your true colors 2nd, the only "receipt" you guys have is a disputed "ok" from an occupying force to copy some sculptures. Not a legitimate proof of sale from the rightful owners. It's like saying that the Nazis gave you permission to copy the Mona Lisa when it was under their possession and you cut off her face with a pair of scissors, lost it in a shipwreck and then recovered it and showcased it in your trophy case Cause that's EXACTLY what Elgin did with the Parthenon sculptures. You guys are just incredibly egotistical to admit you are in the wrong


No-Sheepherder5481

But the government doesn't own the marbles, they're held in trusteeship by the museum. This is an indisputable fact. That you choose to ignore or fail to comprehend this is irrelevant. Her Majesty's government cannot and will not seize private property because its politically expedient to do so. No matter how much the Greeks whinge about it The Ottomans were the legitimate government of the region and had been for centuries. Everyone accepted this. Elgin bought the marbles for safekeeping as they were in danger of being completely obliterated at the time (you're welcome for that btw). Again the museum literally has the receipts. And since you've brought up the Nazis (who we tried to save you from and then we did help save you from the commies, again you're welcome btw) they would have without any doubt have stolen and/or destroyed the marbles when they occupied Athens. But the marbles were nice and safe in London were they remain to this day available to view by all for free, maintained partly by the British taxpayer. In conclusion, cope and seethe


tonygoesrogue

Bruh I can't even You guys are textbook narcissists, it's hilarious. Your superiority complex is the only thing that should actually be in a museum. Your lack of logic as well... The Ottomans sold the permission to butcher a unique masterpiece of humankind to protect it from...whom? Also the victims of the British-made famine of Athens or the British bombs beg to differ And... "her majesty" 😂 Are you copying your sentences from the Bri'ish handbook of chauvinistic Britishness or what


Al_Dutaur_Balanzan

like saying that the government can't do anything because it's the museum that has to decide. They do this game of smoke and mirrors with their overseas territories and their tax haven policies too. "Oh look, we can't do anything about it, the Cayman are not British" lol.


No-Information-Known

Germany has 1000+ Benin bronzes. They have given back 2 of them.


Onkel24

Germany has given all of them back. They are/will soon be Nigerian property. 2 pieces have been *physically* handed over so far, probably symbolic for the photo op. The agreement was signed just yesterday. More will follow. Many will stay or rotate into Germany as per a standard art loan agreement, which Nigeria has consented to.


Reimiro

Nigeria doesn’t want them all physically back immediately. A museum is being built for them and it will take time.


Individual_Cattle_92

Nigeria engaged Germany in a grown-up conversation. They didn't throw a tantrum and make demands.


Buda_Baba

If the Brits would start to return all the plundered items from museums, only thing left would be staff. Also, the way they destroy Benin is appalling.


No-Competition-3042

beautiful Benin wonderful Benin nothing bad ever happened in Benin


Currywurst97

I dont know why they downvoted you, 100% spot on and pressure to give back all that loot will only grow over the decades


OldRabies

And France. France stole much more.


Al_Dutaur_Balanzan

debatable. It's really hard to measure who stole and looted more.