Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Indigenous groups in Canada call for National Museum of Scotland to return human remains

Indigenous leaders want Beothuk tribal remains stored in Edinburgh brought home. The museum has said it will take a 'considered view' if  'the proper approach' is made.

Give back those human remains seems a pretty proper request to make to any institution holding such things...
Chief Nonosbawsut and his wife Demasduit died in Newfoundland in the early 19th century, at a time when the Beothuk tribe was being wiped out by colonial expansion. Scots-Canadian William Cormack took the skull and other goods from the grave of Nonosbawsut - who had been shot dead by British officers in 1819 when asking for the release of his captured partner Demasduit - and sent them to Edinburgh. Demasduit, captured by British troops and renamed ‘Mary March’, died in 1820 - and her remains were also later taken to Edinburgh. [...] All Indigenous groups in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, have signed a letter requesting the return of the remains. “[...] Premier Dwight Ball of Newfoundland wrote to the National Museum of Scotland requesting a return of the remains in 2016 - but saw the attempt rejected based, according to the museum, on Scottish legislation. According to CBC in Canada, part of the issue was with identifying "a community descended from the original owners” to make a valid application. However, with the Beothuk people wiped out this is not possible.
This is so wrong:
 6.4 Any request for the transfer of human remains should be submitted in writing to the Director. This request should set out the claim clearly and give as much information and supporting evidence as possible. In particular: • Full endorsement from the National Government and recognised National Agency (Museum) would need to be provided. • The community of claimants would need to demonstrate that it is a direct genealogical descendant of the community whose remains are under claim and/or that it continues to share the same culture (spiritual beliefs, cultural practices) attributed to the community whose remains are under claim. It would also need to provide evidence of cultural importance, including cultural and spiritual relevance, to the community making the claim and identify the strength of the connection of the community to the remains, and the consequences of their return. • The community of claimants or representatives acting for this community would be expected to demonstrate that they are fully supported by all the potential claimant groups.
One wonders whether the original acquisition of those remains was accompanied by so much paperwork of the same type. Maybe NMS could show us the requests of the  Beothuk elders and direct descendants to dig up their chief's head and look after the remains of 'Mary March' in their museum and are fully supported buy all the groups. Can they?

The Beothuk are the aboriginal people of the island of Newfoundland. They were Algonkian-speaking hunter-gatherers who probably numbered less than a thousand people at the time of European contact.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property

To deal with cases outside the scope of the 1970 Convention or other international agreements, UNESCO set up in 1978 the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation. This platform of negotiation, mediation and conciliation intends to facilitate the restitution of important cultural objects, such as the Parthenon sculptures, and to develop means to prevent and raise awareness about the combat against illicit trafficking.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

American Numismatic Society to Repatriate 94 War-Looted Coins to the Salzburg Museum

The American Numismatic Society (ANS) is handing over a group of 94 coins stolen from the Museum Carolino-Augusteum of Salzburg in 1945.
This group of coins came to the ANS in 1995 after our late Benefactor, Mr. Chester L. Krause, brought them to the attention of the curators. Mr. Krause had learned that these coins were rumored to have come from a museum in Austria in 1945 and donated to the ANS the funds to purchase them, so as to ensure that they could be returned to any rightful owner rather than being dispersed on the market. The ANS accepted the gift and acquired the coins in order to preserve the group intact, while curators Alan Stahl and William Metcalf immediately began inquiries with colleagues in Austria. In the last year of World War II, the coins from the Salzburger Museum Carolino-Augusteum were moved to underground storage for protection. After the end of the war, the American occupation authorities took custody of those coins; when they were returned to the museum in 1946, over 2,000 coins were missing. Publications from before and after the war made it clear that the coins the ANS had acquired closely matched some of the missing coins from the Salzburger Museum, but no clear proof was available at that time. [...] recent work has been able to match a few coins with earlier photographs and many others, which have inventory numbers written in ink on the surface of the coin, with an old card file in the Salzburg Museum bearing similar numbers. This work has demonstrated that the group of coins can in fact be identified as a small but valuable portion of the coins stolen from the Salzburger Museum over 70 years ago. 
 'The American Numismatic Society to Repatriate 94 War-Looted Coins to the Salzburg Museum', The American Numismatic Society May 23, 2017/

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Let’s do a Brexit deal with the Parthenon marbles

Geoffrey Robertson ('Let’s do a Brexit deal with the Parthenon marbles' Guardian Tuesday 4 April 2017) suggests that gestures involving the enhancement of Europe’s cultural heritage may have a role to play in ensuring a modicum of success in Brexit negotiations:
The most important symbols of Europe’s cultural heritage are the Parthenon marbles. Half of them are in the new Acropolis Museum, while the other half, ripped off the Parthenon by a Scottish diplomat, sit in a British Museum gallery [...] There is no more significant cultural heritage than the Parthenon marbles, so the negotiators on both sides are bound to take their reunification into account. They are, of course, priceless, and a UK offer to return them should be accepted in return for major concessions [...] a willingness to surrender Elgin’s ill-gotten gains will win goodwill as well as concessions. Britain is leaving Europe, so it should leave Europe with its marbles. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Mohenjo Daro Dancing Girl

Muhammad Majid Bashir, 'The dancing girl in distress' Pakistan Today, January 29, 2017
The dancing girl, excavated in the Hargreaves area of Mohenjo Daro in 1926 by Ernest Mackay, is currently displayed at National Museum in New Delhi. Pakistan’s demand for its return bases itself on the belief that it was taken from Pakistan, 60 years ago, on the request of the National Arts Council in Delhi, for an exhibition from the Lahore Museum, but was never returned. The statue forms an integral part of Pakistan’s national heritage as a prehistoric cultural object, and its return to Pakistan is vital. [...] Due to the lack of certainty as to the events and circumstances that led to the dancing girl’s situation in India; an appeal to the government should be made to request UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation to take into consideration this matter for the unharmed and peaceful return of the dancing girl to its home.
Another version of events, however, "suggests the statue was taken to Delhi before Partition by Mortimer Wheeler" (halid, Haroon (26 October 2016). "Should Pakistan get the dancing girl from Mohenjo-Daro back?". Huffington Post; Mansoor, Hasan (11 October 2016). "Pakistan needs to do homework for Dancing Girl's return". Dawn Oct 11, 2016).

Friday, December 30, 2016

Cairo Geniza at Cambridge University

Edgar Asher, Cairo Geniza at Cambridge University' Ashernet Dec 29, 2016
An exhibition at Cambridge University featuring a fraction of ancient Jewish manuscripts that are part of the unique collection known as the Cairo Geniza will open in April, 2017. Titled “Discarded History,” the exhibit displays a small percentage of 300,000 manuscripts originally found in the geniza, or storeroom, of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat. Some documents date back over 1,000 years.[...] Schechter received permission to examine the contents of the geniza and to take whatever he liked. As he later said, “I liked it all.” Schechter subsequently removed most of the manuscripts from the Ben Ezra Synagogue geniza and brought them back to Cambridge. As he began to evaluate hundreds of items, he realized that this collection of documents was an unprecedented window on Jewish life.[...] The religious and civil documents discovered in the Cairo Geniza provide scholars with copious pieces of information that, when they are all itemized and collated, will be a window on Jewish secular and religious life over the past 10 centuries.
The collection was taken in 1896, in 2016 its full cataloguing is still being referred to in the future tense. Maybe instead of throwing resources at displaying the 'trophies', the institution housing them should pull their finger out and get them properly analysed at last. Too many institutions are sitting on material they have taken for themselves but have not the resources to process properlyn in good time.