|From left, a wooden mask, painted; a wooden idol; and the fragment of a wooden mask, which were returned to a representative of the Alaskan Chugach people in Berlin on Wednesday.|
The items, which included several masks, a wooden idol and a baby basket, had been in the collection of Berlin’s Ethnographic Museum, though they were never exhibited publicly. Between 1882 and 1884, they were taken by Johan Adrian Jacobsen, a Norwegian adventurer and amateur ethnographer acting on behalf of the museum. [...] The return of the items comes at a time when European museums are being called on to put more effort into provenance research and to return objects acquired in ways that were unethical and would now be unlawful.[...] In Germany, where most provenance research has focused on art looted during the Nazi years of the 1930s and ’40s, the subject of provenance research into objects taken during earlier times has been the matter of some controversy. Although Germany’s empire was much smaller than France’s or Britain’s, it had several African colonies and acquired many objects for its museums from these territories, as well as from other parts of the world.Once the objects get back to Alaska, they will be returned to the Chugach community displayed in community centers or local museums.