Whose Past?

I am speaking at the debate: Western museums should take a sympathetic view to requests for the repatriation of cultural artefacts, on the 28 April. I will argue against the motion.

Durham University Archaeology Society are hosting the event, as part of a one day interdisciplinary conference to be held at Durham University involving the Archaeology, Anthropology, Philosophy and Law departments from Durham and Newcastle University and selected guest speakers. The whole day looks great and will also debate the use of human remains – the subject of my last book Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: the crisis of cultural authority. Have a look at the programme.

I think that repatriation requests tend to reinforce some very dodgy ideas about identity, culture and politics. Instead decisions should be made about the place of objects on the basis of access, research possibilities and conversation issues. That means I support the status quo in relation to the Parthenon Marbles – they are great in Athens AND in the British Museum.