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British Museum refuses to return to Ethiopia objects it refuses to display

This article was interesting (I'll post a non-paywall version below). The BM has artifacts that are apparently among the holiest relics of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The artifacts are kept covered in a basement out of public view, and only priests of that church can see them. As you can imagine, Ethiopia has asked that the artifacts be returned, and the BM says "no".

Religious artifacts like that, well I don't think things are holy. But if some object is exceedingly important to a group, and the object is taken from that group to another country where it sits covered in a basement and is only looked at by leaders of that group - just frigging give it back to them!

I wonder how long the BM can continue its "no returns" policy. And would people care and still visit the BM if, for example, you couldn't see the Rosetta Stone or Elgin Marbles? Do people care about the other stuff in the BM?

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by Anonymousreply 25March 25, 2023 8:23 PM

The non-paywall version

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by Anonymousreply 1March 25, 2023 11:05 AM

also, here's where we recently talked ad nauseum about the Elgin Marbles

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by Anonymousreply 2March 25, 2023 11:06 AM

Shame, Britain, Shame!!

by Anonymousreply 3March 25, 2023 11:09 AM

The British Museum is somewhat screwed in these situations, because the government passed a law in 1963 saying they cannot actually return anything in their possession, everything they own has to be kept under penalty of law. This law was upheld in 2005 with regard to Jewish-owned art stolen by Nazis that ended up in the British Museum. There was such an outcry by historians and museum officials that in 2009 the government passed a law specifically about the Nazi art to allow it to go back to the original families, but they were clear that this was a singular exception.

I think the UK government is going to be standing in the way of progress for a very long time.

by Anonymousreply 4March 25, 2023 11:29 AM

[quote] I think the UK government is going to be standing in the way of progress for a very long time.

How much influence does Charles have in these decisions? Because he always seemed spineless and would give in and send antiquities back to their country.

by Anonymousreply 5March 25, 2023 11:47 AM

Give in to what, exactly? Reason? Britain doesn't have enough history of its own, it has to show off its imperial loot? Shameful.

This will all be returned decades from now as the debate is pretty much settled in the museum circles, it's just a matter of political will to change the law.

by Anonymousreply 6March 25, 2023 11:55 AM

Everyone knows that if the Parthenon (Elgin) pieces are returned to Greece, they will hock them to the rich Saudis in a New York minute.

Greece has been favored with a beautiful location and wonderful goods to export and they still can’t get themselves together financially.

by Anonymousreply 7March 25, 2023 12:05 PM

R5 the king Charles is only for decorum, he has no real power, the government is elected by the british people, and has the power when it comes to make laws. The royal family doesn't have the right to vote.

by Anonymousreply 8March 25, 2023 12:11 PM

[quote] it's just a matter of political will to change the law.

And why would there be a political will to change the law? The only reason there would be a change is if it started hurting the UK economically or diplomatically, and unfortunately for any country that isn't India or China whose artefacts the British Museum is currently sitting on they're not and are not likely to be in any position to do that.

by Anonymousreply 9March 25, 2023 12:24 PM

[quote]the BM says "no".

Their favorite word.

by Anonymousreply 10March 25, 2023 12:27 PM

Thank you, OP, although your side-step into making certain we understand you don't believe in "holiness" of objects is peculiar and irrelevant to the issue at hand.

by Anonymousreply 11March 25, 2023 12:29 PM

R11, normally anything even mentioning religion prompts much DL hand wringing over "My Own Deep Emotional Scar From Religious Indoctrination At The Hands Of Mrs. Amos During Macaroni Art Time In Vacation Bible School In Paducah, Kentucky Circa 1987".

So I was just trying to get past the inevitable digression. But if we must, we can go down that rabbit hole.

by Anonymousreply 12March 25, 2023 12:33 PM

Greece only began properly maintaining their artifacts in the '90s. With their perpetual instability, it is not out of the realm of possibility artifact maintenance will go out the window again.

Artifacts from the ME and Africa would have long been destroyed because Allah commands such.

Asian artifacts would be lost to private ownership. Not that there aren't similar issues in the western world, but not to the same extent as the East.

These treasures exist because western ideology prized their safekeeping. I hope the BM doesn't give in to the current demands.

by Anonymousreply 13March 25, 2023 12:47 PM

"Artifacts from the ME and Africa would have long been destroyed because Allah commands such."

Not sure this one understands the religious demography of Africa

by Anonymousreply 14March 25, 2023 12:48 PM

[quote] Artifacts from the ME and Africa would have long been destroyed because Allah commands such.

Long been??? The Bamiyan Buddhas were blown up by Muslim Taliban in 2001.

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by Anonymousreply 15March 25, 2023 12:54 PM

Probably 90% or more of non-European material in European museums wouldn't even exist if it hadn't been collected (usually entirely freely and not remotely stolen or 'looted', to use the preferred and usually inaccurate progressive term) in the 17th-20th centuries. For European material, it's probably more like 40-50% likely to have survived, so it was still good to have it incorporated into museums. (Talking material culture here, not fine art.)

by Anonymousreply 16March 25, 2023 1:21 PM

the thing that's funny to me about what r16 says is that the shit was literally in the country in fine condition

This is what cultures have always done - take without permission. Don't dress it up now under "here's how much we invest in security and preservation". Bitch, just say "we took it even though you didn't want us to, and we're keeping it and we're not gonna pretend that there's anything more to it than that. And also the money we get from people coming to see the shit we took from you".

by Anonymousreply 17March 25, 2023 1:38 PM

Soon the trolls will come to convince us that these objects weren’t plundered at all but we’re given as gifts to the British…

by Anonymousreply 18March 25, 2023 1:53 PM

Actually R17 back when they were taken the countries didn't protest at the materials being taken

by Anonymousreply 19March 25, 2023 2:12 PM

“You love to make me hit you!”

by Anonymousreply 20March 25, 2023 2:16 PM

R17, tons of it is organic, for example - wood, textiles etc, or otherwise fragile or made for practical use - they would have simply disappeared through damage, usage, climate and so on, not to mention the impact of religious and political changes, so even the context has changed beyond imagining and their is no living tradition to utilise. Even stone and metal suffers over time, use and neglect. Only them ending up in specialist institutions has enabled much of this material to survive. Often virtually nothing else datable to that period with solid provenances, so the minuscule fraction of material that was acquired out of all that existed, especially from non-literate cultures, is what we now have to use to investigate these areas' history and culture, along with the comments of the collectors and the evidence from other literate cultures that visited the relevant areas (European, Chinese, Islamic). Archaeology can be useful sometimes, but doesn't have much to offer in the Tropics and where ceramics and metal-working were little known.

by Anonymousreply 21March 25, 2023 3:06 PM

R19 It's hard to complain with a boot on your throat.

by Anonymousreply 22March 25, 2023 3:45 PM

[Quote] Actually [R17] back when they were taken the countries didn't protest at the materials being taken

How does one protest when a country is invading you exactly?

by Anonymousreply 23March 25, 2023 5:03 PM

Yes, R17, tale as old as time. Clans have been taking from others since the beginning of civilization. To the victor goes the spoils.

by Anonymousreply 24March 25, 2023 7:12 PM

I agree that museums should just give important shit back - in today's world they can 3D print copies if they want. I saw an amazing touring exhibition in the Egyptian Museum in Barcelona that was entirely 3D printed items.

by Anonymousreply 25March 25, 2023 8:23 PM
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