Universal Museums

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Universal Museums Their History, Challenges and Need for a Renewed & #34;Universal & #34; Perspective
Jayawardena, Dushanthi
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[Gainesville, Fla.]
University of Florida
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1 online resource (93 p.)

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Master's ( M.A.)
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University of Florida
Degree Disciplines:
Art and Art History
Committee Chair:
Willumson, Glenn G.
Committee Members:
Brandt, Steven A.
Price, Mary
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Subjects / Keywords:
African culture ( jstor )
Age of Enlightenment ( jstor )
Art museums ( jstor )
Cultural institutions ( jstor )
Cultural preservation ( jstor )
Cultural repatriation ( jstor )
Cultural values ( jstor )
Enlightenment ( jstor )
Museums ( jstor )
Repatriation ( jstor )
Art and Art History -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
benin, cultural, declaration, heritage, museum, universal
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent) ( marcgt )
Museology thesis, M.A.


The term 'universal museums' is a recently coined definition that refers to museums such as the British Museum and the Louvre in France that grew out of the European Enlightenment in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although there are many universal museums that represent a broad range of history and culture from all over the world, this thesis pertains to the nineteen universal museums that signed the Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums in 2002. The Declaration states that colonial methods of collecting, however immoral, need to be viewed under the light of an earlier era when collecting values were largely different, and that subsequently, today these museums 'serve not just the citizens of one nation but the people of every nation.' However, this document is largely viewed as a defense against repatriation claims from source countries since it neglects to include possible ways of improving dialogue with the communities or countries affected by repatriation of their objects. Today, in a post-colonial world, where cultural and political boundaries have changed dramatically, museums have a changed mission. Far removed from their colonial roots when their sole mission was to collect, preserve, and exhibit objects for the benefit of the elite; museums now strongly aspire to disseminate knowledge to a wider public, and to maintain a high standard of professionalism with respect to cultural property. However, universal museums have been reluctant to embrace this change as reflected by their largely adverse responses to the growing number of requests by source countries, including formerly colonized nations, for the return of cultural treasures. In this thesis, I address the challenges that universal museums face in contemporary society with respect to their current identity and purpose, and the issues of repatriation they face. To better understand universal museums, I first provide a historical overview of how they rose out of royal collections as the first ever public museums used to 'enlighten' society. I summarize the repatriation debate using current cultural property laws and international museum policy perspectives which together significantly hinder the possibility of having positive outcomes for both parties. Lastly, using the Benin Bronzes and Nigeria as a geographic focus, I portray a non-Western standpoint of universal museums and how repatriation issues are being tackled. This is a vital perspective as the views of non-Western museum and cultural heritage professionals are largely absent in the battle for disputed art. In conclusion, I propose collaborative solutions that encourage the development of long-standing relationships between universal museums and formerly colonized nations. These ties would serve the purpose of educating communities about their own cultural heritage while also allowing museums to continue the exchange of art and to enhance the growth of knowledge for their public. ( en )
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In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
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Includes vita.
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Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2010.
Adviser: Willumson, Glenn G.
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by Dushanthi Jayawardena.

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2 2010 Dushanthi Inoka Jayawardena


3 To my parents


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would first like to thank my thesis chair, Dr. Glenn Willumson, for his guidance, invaluable advice, and patience throughout the development of my thesis research. His mentorship and knowledge of the study of museums have helped me far beyond the scope of this thesis. I would also like to thank my other thesis committee members, Dean Kathleen Price and Dr. Steven Brandt, for their generosity in providing me with valuable knowledge and keen insight. I would like to thank my friends Tracy Pfaff, Shawna P ies, Sarah Smith, Lanka Thabrew and Elizabeth Bemis, for their motivation and friendship which truly helped me move forward. I would also like to thank my boyfriend, Janitha Jayasinghe, for his positive words of advice, encouragement, and unwavering suppo rt. Finally, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to my family for their unconditional love and support. I would like to thank my parents for having the confidence and patience in letting me choose a career path that was unfamiliar to them, and for understanding my love of archaeology, museums and cultural heritage. To my siblings, Tilanthi and Rajiv, thank you for your wise judgment and unbelievably valuable advice in every important decision that I make.


5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ................................ ................................ ............................. 7 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 10 2 UNIVERSAL MUSEUMS: AN HISTORICAL OVERVIEW ................................ ...... 24 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 24 The European Enlightenment ................................ ................................ ................. 26 The First Public Art Museums ................................ ................................ ................. 29 Colonization and Anti imperialist Thought ................................ ............................... 34 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 37 3 UNIVERSAL MUSEUMS AND SOURCE COUNTRIES: THE CURRENT CULTURAL PROPERTY DEBATE ................................ ................................ ......... 40 The Dispersal of Cultural Property ................................ ................................ .......... 40 The Cultural Property Debate ................................ ................................ ................. 43 Cultural Internationalism versus Cultural Nationalism ................................ ...... 45 Universal Museums and Cultural Internationalism ................................ ........... 47 Universal Museums and Cultural Nationalism ................................ .................. 54 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 57 4 CASE STUDY OF THE BENIN BRONZES: THE BATTLE FOR THE RETURN OF CULTURAL TREASURES TO AFRICA ................................ ............................ 60 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 60 Case Study of the Benin Bronzes ................................ ................................ ........... 61 Obstacles F aced by Nigeria in Repatriating Cultural Property ................................ 63 Conclusion: A Moralist Approach ................................ ................................ ............ 71 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ........ 75 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 75 A Moralist Approach: Building Branches of Universal Museums ............................ 77 Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 81 Other Universal Solu tions ................................ ................................ ................. 82 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 84


6 APPENDIX: DECLARATION ON THE IMPORTANCE AND VALUE OF UNIVERSAL MUSEUMS ................................ ................................ ........................ 86 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................... 88 BIOGRAPHICAL S KETCH ................................ ................................ ............................ 93


7 LIST OF ABBREVIATION S ICOM International Council of Museums NAGPRA Native Americans Grave Protections and Repatriation Act UN United Nations UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNIDROIT International Institute for the Unification of Private Law


8 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for th e Degree of Master of Arts UNIVERSAL MUSEUMS: THEIR HISTORY, CHALLENG E S AND NEED FOR A By Dushanthi Inoka Jayawardena August 2010 Chair: Glenn Will umson Major: Museology is a recently coined definition that refers to museums such as the British M useum and the Louvre in France that grew out of the European E nlightenment in the eighteenth and ninet eenth centuries Althoug h there are many universal museums that represent a broad range of history and culture fro m all over the world, this thesis pertains to the nineteen universal museums that signed the Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums in 2002. The Declaration states that colonial methods of collecting, however immoral, need to be viewed under the li ght of an earlier era when collecting values were largely different, and that subsequently, ation However, this document is largely viewed as a defense against repatriation claims from source countries since it neglects to include possible ways of improving dialogue with the communities or countries affected by re patriation of their objects. Today, in a post colonial world, where cultural and political boundaries have changed drama tically, museums have a changed mission. Far removed from their colonial roots when their sole mission was to collect, preserve, and ex hibit objects for


9 the benefit of the elite; museums now strongly aspire to disseminate knowledge to a wider public, and to maintain a high standard of professionalism with respect to cultural property. However, u niversal museums have been reluctant to emb race this change as reflected by their largely adverse responses to the growing number of requests by source countries, including formerly colonized nations, for the return of cultural treasures. In this thesis I address the challenges that universal m useums face in contemporary society with respect to their current identity and purpose, and the issues of repatriation they face. To better understand universal museums, I first provide a historical overview of how they rose out of royal collections as th e first ever public museums society. I summarize the repatri ation debate using current cultural property laws and int ernational museum policy perspectives which together significantly hinder the possibility of having positive outcomes for both parties. Lastly, using the Benin Bronzes and Nigeria as a geographic focus, I portray a non Western standpoint of universal museums and how repatriation issues are being tackled. This is a vital perspective as the views of non Western museum and cultural heritage professionals are largely absent in the battle for disputed art. In conclusion, I propose collaborative solutions that encourage the development of long standing relationships between universal museums and formerly colonized nations. Th ese ties would serve the purpose of educating communities about their own cultural heritage while also allowing museums to continue the exchange of art and to enhance the growth of knowledge for their public.


10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Universal museums are museums with encyclopedic collections that represent different cultures of the world. 1 They were originally established during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in continental Europe at the height of significant cultural and political movements such as the European Enlightenment, c olonization, and the French Revolution of 1789 1799. The t statement titled the Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums (hereafter titled the Declaration) that was published in December 2002 and signed by nineteen directors of universal mus eums in Europe and the United States. 2 Most universal museums are art museums that originated from royal collections, with the exception of the British Museum which emerged from a natural history collection that was donated to the state by the physician Sir Hans Sloane. The British Museum became known as a museum of art after it purchased the Parthenon Marbles in 1816 and acquired the Towneley Marbles. 3 Although there are many universal museums that 1 used It i s a twentieth century update to an eighteenth century institution its prototypes being the British Museum and the Louvre. 2 Museum Frictions: Pu blic cultures/global Transformations ed. Ivan Karp (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), 247 49. See Appendix 1 for full view of the Declaration. The nineteen signatories of the Declaration are t h e Art Institute of Chicago; Bavarian State Museum, Munich (Alt e Pinakothek, Neue Pinakothek); State Museums, Berlin; Cleveland Museum of Art; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Louvre Museum, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ne w York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Prado Museum, Madrid; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; Thyssen Bornemisza Museum, Madrid; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The British Museum, London 3 Germain Bazin, The Museum Age. American ed. (N ew York: Universe Books, 1967), 150.


11 represent different cultures of the world, this thesis focuses on the nineteen universal museum signatories of the Declaration. The Declaration is viewed as a defense against a growing number of requests from source countries collections. The battles over the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum to Greece, and the bust of Nefertiti from the State Museum in Berlin to Egypt are a few of the high profile repatriation claims that initiated the creation of the Declaration. 4 5 The mounti ng calls for repatriation from source countries and the subsequent publication of the Declaration self universal mu for the first time, has provided a new context in the cultural property debate. The latter which typically take s place between a Western museum and the government of a source country (usually non Western) now includes a critical divide between universal museums and countries that were under European colonial rule. In summary, the contents of the declaration em phasize the important role that Despite discouraging the ongoing illicit trafficking of objects, the Declaration claims that objects t in context of an earlier era that had 4 he Elgin Who Owns the Past? : Cultural Policy, Cultural Property, and the Law Rutgers Series on the Public Life of the Arts, American Council for Cultural Policy and Kate Fitz Gibbon (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press i n association with The American Council for Cultural Policy, 2005), 109 19. 5 For a summary of the repatriation case of the bust of Nefertiti, see Sharon Waxman, Loot: the battle over the stolen treasures of the ancient world (New York: Times Books, 2008) 53 61.


12 that while its ori ginal context is important, universal museums have provided a renewed context that goes beyond its original provenance. The Decl can be attributed to objects procured from the periods of European A bsolutism in the sixteenth century to imperialist rule in the nineteenth century resulting in colonization of vast lands across the world. 6 Beginning with the rise of European absolutism in France, Russia, Austria, Denmark and Spain in the sixteenth century, the collection and exhibition of art came to represent the power of the state. The creation of absolutism or an absolute monarchy led to competing power plays between the rising European powers. The display of grand art in royal courts was central to the domination of the European state, and art was confiscated as booty from territories under rule for this purpose. 7 Later, in the eighteenth century, as European powers became a dominant part of the rest of the world through colon ization, we began to see a widespread appropriation of ancient cultures. The treasures from distant lands became part of the rising national identities of European countries. The French Revolution of 1789 and the consequent 8 the important role that art played in establishing national identity. Monuments and 6 Imperialism and colo nialism are often confused as synonyms of one another. However, colonization is the attitudes of a dominating metropo Said Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), 9. 7 Chapter 2 describes in detail the manner and purpose of collecting during European absolutism. 8 Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts, ed Bettina Messias Carbonell (Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub, 200 4) 56 57.


13 objects from Greece and Ro me were the first ancient cultures that drew keen interest from competing European powers. Then, in the nineteenth century, beginning with spread further East from Eg ypt to the Mesopotamian civilizations, and subsequently in the twentieth century, to antiquities in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Many of these ancient treasures now remain on display in the halls of Western museums, including universal museums. Toda y, we live in a very different world. The countries that were once colonized are now building their own national identities, and the reclamation of their cultural property, as an extension of their cultural identity, is a way of reclaiming a stolen histor y. To many source countries, viewing the acquisition of objects in the light of a different era does not absolve the impropriety surrounding their removal them from their original locations. However, during the nineteenth century at the height of imperia lism, when European powers plundered innumerable antiquities from conquered territories in the competition for national glory, the notion of its present day immorality did not exist. In fact, it was considered the norm. As Elazar Barkan, Professor of Int ernational and Public Affairs at Columbia University, suggests: Looted cultural objects expansively displayed in museums and world fairs were the most concrete demonstration of imperial glories and wealth. Eventually, with the delegitimation of imperiali sm, even after the European powers withdrew from their empires, they held on to the cultural imperial spoils. It is these possessions that have become subject to criticism. 9 9 9 Claiming the stones/naming the Bones: Cultural Property and the Negotiation of National and Ethnic Identity ed. Elazar Barkan and Ronald B ush, ed. (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2002), 20


14 The pillaging of art that took place at this time happened without the rule of l aw, and the military, archaeologists and scholars brought back valuable treasures of ancient civilizations to universal museums in the West, while vanquishing those civilizations of their own history One of the imperial atrocities of the nineteenth centur y that evokes the need for justification by a source country is the plunder of Benin City (present day Nigeria) by British forces in 1897. In reaction to the killing of some British troop s the city and palace of Benin were invaded, and thousands of treas ures were looted, after which the city was burned. Today, most of the Benin treasures, more famously known as the Benin bronzes, can be found in universal museums in Paris, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 10 In 1977, the British Museum requested an insurance bond worth two million pounds sterling for the loan of an ivory mask to the Nigerian government though eventually denying the request altogether on the grounds that the mask was too fragile for travel. Using preservation concerns as justific ation for denying loan or repatriation requests has become a popular strategic move made by univ ersal museums. M ore pressing justification provided by the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, and other universal museum directors is that the worl dly context provided by these antiquities is only possible within the walls of the universal museum. 11 H e goes 10 Art and Cultural Heritage: Law, Policy, and Practice ed. Barbara T. Hoffman (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 137 11 The Guardian, 24 July 2004, < >).


15 A collection that embraces the whole world allows you to consider the whole world. 12 For MacGre gor, the the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Marbles serve a greater purpose 13 He promotes the idea of being able to display the world under one roof, a notion of universality, crediting its roots to the eighteenth century European Enlightenment, the intellectual movement that he claims provided the foundation to ding of the world. 14 He compares e ncyclopedic collection with the Encyclopdie a renowned representation of Enlightenment thought published in France in the mid eighteenth century by Denis Diderot highlighting the importance of gathering universal knowledge, a concept which MacGregor clai ms was empirically accomplished by the British Museum from the collection and housing of material under one roof 15 By having objects of different cultures exhibited next to one another, MacGregor determines that this new context, only possible in a univer sal museum setting, would allow more truthful details to emerge that would not be possible if these objec ts were exhibited in isolation. In embracing its Enlightenment roots, he believes that the modern encyclopedic museum or universal museum has the abili ty to use its collections in their worldly 12 13 See Chapter 4 for a case study on the Benin Bronzes. 14 Neil MacGre That Great City: The World, Whose C ulture?: The Promise of Museums and the Debate Over Antiquities ed. James B. Cuno (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), 38 39. 15 Denis Diderot, a French philosopher and prominent Enlightenment thinker is best known as chief editor of the Encyclop die, known in English as Encyclopedia, or a systematic dictionary of the sciences, arts, and crafts,


16 something to shape the citizen of 16 He also credits the European Enlightenment for having founded the notion of trusteeship, stating that the natives as well as foreign, t 17 Neil MacGregor has become the most vocal supporter of the Declaration and the universal museum. Although the British Museum was not one of the original signatories, it published a statement as a preface to the Declaration, both of which were first published through the press office of the British Museum. 18 Another vocal supporter of the Declaration is James Cuno, Director of the Art Institute of Chicago who has written many publications in defense of universal museums and the need for disputed objects to remain within their collections. Similar to the views of MacGregor, Cuno be lieves that the universal museum is based on European E nlightenment values of cosmopolitanism allowing exploration of the full extent of diversity in human culture. that its empirical application of the Encyclopdie for the sake of experimentation and curiosity of the ways of the world were part of the Enlightenment ambition. In defending 16 MacGre That Great City: The World 38, 54. 17 MacGre That Great City: The World 43. 18 For a full view of the Statement on the Value of the Universa l Museum, see Appendix I.


17 universality for discovering the underlying principles of all things and all knowledge 19 The Declaration caused widespread criticism fro m scholars, museum professionals, and prof essional organizations spearheading much needed debate of the key issues regarding cultural property, repatriation and the purpose of universal museums. 20 Geoffrey Lewis, Chair of the ICOM Ethics Committee, who doe s not support the Declaration, encourages dialogue between museums and source countries, stating that universal museums have to face the reality of the significance of national patrimony towards cultural heritage today. In an editorial published in an ICO M newsletter in 2004, Lewis expressed his opinions regarding the Declaration and stated the following: The real purpose of the Declaration was, however, to establish a higher degree of immunity from claims for the repatriation of objects from the collectio ns of these museums. The presumption that a museum with universally defined objectives may be considered exempt from such demands is specious. The Declaration is a statement of self interest, made ; they do not, ability of a people to present their cultural heritage in their own territory. 21 19 James B. Cuno, Who Owns Antiquity? : Museums and the Battle o ver our Ancient Heritage (Princeton, N.J.; Woodstock Oxfordshire England: Princeton University Press, 2008), 140 20 does not give credit to the s ubtlety of thought that many m t of the Australian Museums Association said that were more positive ways of managing repatriation claims which could build relationships between museums and communities that would favor both parties. ICOM stated that the issue of repatriation requires mor e wise and thoughtful judgment and that strong declarations needed to be avoided. See Jeanette Greenfield, The Return of Cultural Treasures 3rd ed. ( Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press 2007), 88. 21 Geoffrey Lewis is the Chair of the Inte 2004 edition of ICOM News, he published an article titled Art an d Cultural Heritage : Law, Policy, and Practice ed. Barbara T. Hoffman (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 379 381.


18 representation of a nationalistic approach that supports the modern political borders of source countries. The idea of identifying cultural property with a modern nation has become a significan t part of the language embodied in the ICOM Code of Ethics, and more importantly in UNESCO legislation relating to cultural property, specifically the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfe r of Ownership of Cultural Property (hereafter called the 1970 UNESCO Convention). 22 The premise shared by UNESCO and ICOM is that cultural property belongs to the geographic area from which it originated, and that the descendants of the people of the cul ture attributed to the object are the rightful claimants. This nationalistic approach is very different from the more internationalist view taken on by universal museum directors, who believe that cultural heritage belongs to all mankind. A strong advoc ate of the internationalist approach is John Henry Merryman, a prominent expert of international cultural property law, who believes that the sovereignty of a nation bears no relevance to the determination of where cultural property belongs. For internati onalists like Merryman, MacGregor and Cuno, the principle of limiting cultural heritage to its geography has politicized the issue of repatriation, causing misunderstanding and conflict. 23 In addition, the internationalist 22 For full view of the 1970 Convention, access it electronically on the UNESCO website at < URL_ID=13039&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html > or see Patty Gerstenblith, Art, Cultural Heritage, and the Law: Cases and Materials (Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2004), 771 779. 23 John Henry Merryman and Albert Edward Elsen, Law, ethics, and the visual arts (London: Kluwer Law International, 2002), 266.


19 approach determines that if a cou ntry has an abundance of cultural resources that it does not have the capacity to take care of, then those resources should instead be transferred to countries able to do so, such that they can be preserved for the good of mankind. 24 The battle over high p rofile cultural treasures such as the Benin Bronzes, the Parthenon Marbles and the Rosetta Stone, with the help of widespread media attention has engulfed the museum world and the global community to such a large extent that it has narrowed our perspectiv es on the real issues at hand. What is the role of the self declared universal museum in the twenty first century? Is it relevant to use eighteenth century European Enlightenment values to justify the need for objects to be represented in a worldly conte xt? Why do universal museum directors believe they have the nature of their collections? Does the return of objects nullify past historical injustices which have severel y transformed the identities of these cultures? And how can universal museums find collaborative solutions with source countries? This thesis attempts to answer the questions posed above by analyzing the ideology of the universal museum, first from a historical perspective and then focusing on the challenges they face today in the twenty first century with regards to the cultural pro perty debate. In promoting the concept of universality in the twenty first century, I believe that the directors of universal museums face two major challenges. 24 Legal Perspectives on Cultural Resources, ed. Marion Forsyth and Jennifer R. Richman (Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, 2004), 22.


20 First the selective use by museum directors European Enli ghtenment to defend themselves against repatriation claims in the twenty first century appears to be problematic. The European Enlightenment, although is not withou t its complications. Innumerable discourses on this eighteenth century intellectual movement present varying interpretations of its purpose and its effects on universal principles have been challenged as far back as the Enlightenment itself by philosophers such as Immanuel Kant (1724 1804), Johann Gottfried Herder (1744 1803), Adam Smith (1723 1790) and Denis Diderot (1713 1784) While they recognized that all people deserved equal dignity and respe ct, they felt it was equally important to recognize the cultural distinctiveness of people. Therefore, they struggled between universal concepts and cultural pluralism. For Kant, Smith, and Diderot, using the universal argument of a shared humanity of all people was not enough to challenge colonialism, which they believed to be antithetical to Enlightenment principles. 25 They felt that until people in Europe recognized the diverse aspects of varying cultu res, people in the colonies would continue to be tre ated with disrespect. Therefore, for Diderot, the only way in which 26 Today, in a world that is more culturally pluralistic than it has ever been, it context. I n considering the undeniable tie that the Enlightenment has to nationalism 25 Margaret Kohn, "Colonialism." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2010 E dition), ed. Edward N. Zalta. < >. 26


21 and colonialism, which has contributed to the mass scale plunder of art treasures, one may questi on whether it s motives were universalist. In this sense, the European Enlightenment is multi dimensional in its effects, and univer sal museums would do well not to attach themselves to Enli ghtenment roots in promoting a Second the u pplying a universal context to their collections despite the escalating calls for repatriation by source countries appears to go against recognition of the gaining national significance of cultural property over the pa st three decades. Since the 1980s, we have seen UNESCO take on a more nationalistic approach towards the designation of cultural property to a particular place, largely due to practical dilemmas with regards to the growing illicit trade in antiquities. U NESCO is the main operational agency through which control is exercised over the import and export of cultural property. Although operating on an international framework, UNESCO controls and mediates repatriation claims on a national basis. For universal museums, nationalis m is seen as an obstacle in the preservation of universal cultural heritage against possible destruction. Therefore, the challenge for universal museums and source countries is finding common ground between a polarized internationalist and nationalist view on the rightful place for cultural property. The two challenges that I have described above will be discussed more fully in th e following chapters. The second chapter gives a brief historical overview of the origins of the universal museum, describing its birth from princely galleries during the Renaissance, its transition to a public museum during the eighteenth century European Enlightenment, and its establishment as a nineteenth century imperialistic institution. This chapter also addresses the relationship between the European Enlightenment and


22 the concept of universality. To understand the original concept of universality i t is imperative to understand the general cultural developments o f the period in which they grew during the age of exploration, where the development of public museums was part of a larger scheme by nations to impart power, and educate and reform society. In the third chapter, I address the implications of colonial plunder and its effects on the cultural property debate. This chapter addresses the problems that universal museums face with respect to cultural property claims using cultural property law the ories that demonstrate the internationalist approach taken by universal museums and the nationalist approach taken by sourc e countries. This chapter also addresses how international conventions such as the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the 1995 UNIDROIT Conv ention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects (hereafter called the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention) have given paramount recognition to the expression of national cultural heritage through cultural property, a principle which does not favor the declara to their place of o rigin. 27 The fourth chapter is a case study of the Benin Bronzes that addresses the issues faced by Nigeria in attempting to repatriate the bronzes from t he universal museums that possess them. I use this case study to demonstrate the current obstacles faced by source countries in repatriating their cultural property under the auspices of UNESCO and UNIDROIT conventions. Finally, I provide alternative solu tion s to repatriation one of which is building branches of universal museums in Africa. I believe that this method would allow univ ersal museums to enforce true 27 For full view of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Expo rted Cultural Objects, access website at < >.


23 values by enabling source countries to be reconnected with objects that represent their culture, while facilitating universal museums with further knowledge and res earch. It would also encourage the process of gradually eliminating the colonial underpinnings and authoritative structure of universal museums.


24 CHAPTER 2 UNIVERSAL MUSEUMS: A N HISTORICAL OVERVIEW Introduction The universal museum has had a complex history since its emergence in eighteenth century Europe To give a historical narrative of the development of the universal museum, we have to examine the development of the first public art museums in Europe, since these were the first museums with encyclopedic collections to serve the public since their tran sition from princely collections. Carol Duncan and Allan as the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art which represent a broad range of history in their collections. Ac museum is not only the first in importance, it is also the first type to emerge historically, 1 It is important to look c losely at the eighteenth century European Enlightenment and how it contributed to the formation of the first public museums the prototypes of the universal museums in Europe. It is also important to understand that the European Enlightenment gave ris e to nationalism and new imperialism amongst the European empires, ultimately resulting in the zenith of colonial expansion taking place in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Universal museum directors, Neil MacGregor and James Cuno, use t he Europea n Enlightenment and its universal aspirations as a supporting argument for the importance appreciated by its juxtaposition to other cultures hence giving the objects a uni versal 1 Duncan and Wallach, 54 55.


25 objective. 2 MacGregor and Cuno are able to use the European Enlightenment conveniently as a binding force to universal values as it was during this period that the early universal museums such as the British Museum and the Louvre were established. Although encycl opedic collecting did take on new meaning during the Enlightenment era, its origins precede the age of the Enlightenmen t to that of the Renaissance The earliest example of a museological classification system that had a specific arrangement of objects was compiled by Flemish physician Samuel Quiccheberg, who had developed a detailed encyclopedic template for scholarly collecting. 3 He was one of the first scholars to use the terms Kunstkammer and Wunderkammer more famously filled with extraordinary works of art and nature. 4 rich theatre of objects of the whole universe, unique materials, and ext r an encyclopedic framework for scholarly collecting. 5 In this sense, the European Enlightenment cannot be wholly credited for giving museum collecting a universal or encyclopedic objective. There are many varying analys es to the goals and accomplishments of the European Enlightenment, but to perceive it myopically as an event that strove for universal values, as claimed by supporters of universal museums, is too one dimensional. This chapter will explore the European En lightenment and its multi dimensional effects on European 2 3 Samuel Quiccheberg (1529 67) was considered to be either a physician to Albrecht V of Bavaria (1528 in Interpreting Objects and Collections by ed. Susan M. Pearce (London: Routledge, 1994), 175 187. 4 Schultz, 178. 5 Schultz, 178 9.


26 society as well as non European colonies, thereby demonstrating the need for universal museum directors to have a broader understanding of the Enlightenment that is not li mited to universalist value s. The European Enlightenment The eighteenth century in Europe was a crucial time that fostered the time that the European Enlightenment was born. 6 The Enlightenmen t brought on a new set of cultural, political and humanistic beliefs that spurred a wave of revolutionary transformations. In essence, it constituted a repudiation of external authority and tradition, such as nobility and religion, and promoted the use of individual reason. There are many philosophers that have contributed vastly to the subject of the European Enlightenment, a few of whom are Denis Diderot, Montesquieu, and Voltaire from France, Immanuel Kant from Germany, and Adam Smith from Scotland. D espite the plethora of Enlightenment thinkers who have contributed to its critical analysis, there is no unified agreement of what the Enlightenment constitutes. This may be as a result of the fact that although the Enlightenment did spread like an epidem ic through different parts of Europe, it took on its own individual form in each country depe nding on the political situation. On a political level, an important aspect of the European Enlightenment that took place was the shift in monarchial rule from abs olutism to enlightened absolutism. Although the En lightenment supported philosophies that were in principle against the notion of authority, it did not immediately cause a disruption of the monarchies (until the 6 Nick Prior, Museums and M odernity: art galleries and the making of modern culture (Oxford: New York, NY, 2002), 22 23.


27 French Revolution in 1789), but instead enab led a few monarchs to adopt certain aspects of Enlightenment philosophy. While the absolutist monarch was considered ruler under the power of God, the enlightened absolutists considered themselves to be servants of the state. Examples of Enlightenment abs olutists are Catherine the Great of Russia, Joseph II and Maria Theresa of Austria, and Frederick II of Prussia. In practice, the enlightened absolutist was similar to the absolute monarch in that they felt entitled in their right to govern by birth and r an very centralized governments, but they did uphold Enlightenment values such as religious toleration of minorities, freedom of speech, and right to own private property. More importantly, they played an important role in fostering art, culture, and educ ation. Another important aspect of the European Enlightenment was the emergence of a more democratic public sphere. The increasingly centralized governments of enlightened absolutists in the eighteenth century created a widening gap between the state a obligations and duties, as taxpayers, potential soldiers, and so on. To this extent, they the state, unqualified to take an active role in g 7 This process forced the public sphere to form its own aims and demands against the traditions of absolutist role, creating in the long run an autonomous group of individuals that rose i n the ranks of class to be more active in society, and subsequently becoming a revolutionary challenge to the absolutist ways of rule. This emerging public sphere, also known as the bourgeois ie or middle class, rose with the ownership of capital, and in 7 Prior, 23.


28 8 More importantly, in response to the demands made by the bourgeois ie on the restrictive princely galleries, many monarchies, in order to satisfy the growing public, decided to make their collections public. Although the Enlightenment supported core ideals such as the importance of reason, universal human rights, progress secularism, public welfare, centralized government, and democracy, it was not meant to be absorbed by all people in Europe. In fact, Kant thought that only those who were truly free and independent were other words, people who had professions that made them dependent on others, such as servants, peasants, and handymen were not considered worthy until they were independent. Also, philosophers such as Moses Mendelssohn believed that the European Enlightenm ent was only important to the risin g middle class society and he thought that bringing it to the public would be problematic as it would inhibit them from being con trolled and work ing for the bourgeois ie or the middle class. Therefore, he made a distinct ion between Bourgeois Enlightenment and Human Enlightenment, stating that the two could in fact co me in conflict with one another. 9 This gives us a sense of how the Enlightenment could only be enjoyed by the privilege d and the educated. A lthough it is th e workings of the Enlightenment that gradually shifted monarchial political values of the European 8 Prior, 24 9 Published in the 1784 September issue of the Berlinische Monatsschrift (Berlin Monthly) in response to the question Was ist Aufklarung? (What is Enlightenment?). See Gregorios, 32 33


29 absolutist states, giving way to a more secure public sphere, it was not completely democratic. The First Public Art Museums The European Enlightenment was largely responsible for the transformation of princely galleries to public art museums, which resocialized the art viewing experience. Before the transformation to public art museums, princely collections had a singular function to serve as a direct ind icator of the absolutist power of the monarch y, thereby representing its wealth and high social standing. The visitor to the gallery only viewed 10 Princely galler ies and the manner of representation of art was closely linked to the rising of absolutist empires in Austria, France, Prussia, Russia, Great Britain, and Italy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the latter of which had been a dominant imperial st ronghold since the fourteenth century. The most famous princely collections were those of Emperor Rudolf II of Hungary and Croatia, the Archduke Leopold William of Brussels, Phillip II of Spain and Cardinals Mazarin and Geronimo Colonna from Italy. 11 The se European empires competed with one another, each demonstrating to the other its grandeur and monumental power through court masques, musical presentations, theatre and other forms of embellishment that signified royal authority. 12 Art too was a conven ient contribution to this display of exuberance. Paintings were used as part of a larger decorative scheme to cover the walls of galleries in a tapestry like effect. 13 10 Duncan 58 11 Duncan, 59. 12 Prior 17 13 Duncan 57


30 Often times, these paintings were compromised to fit this decorative scheme by using inco nspicuous frames, and even cutting them down or enlarging them to fit. Quantity, excess, decoration, and the outward appearance of the art were far more important than its individual aesthetic expression. There was also a designated physical space for wo icons for banqueting halls, pastoral scenes for halls and intimate portraits for 14 Royal portraiture was also part of this iconographic programme wher e busts or portraits of princes were placed as the focal point of an historical representation which included other monarchs and rulers. For example, in the Antequariam of Albrecht V of Bavaria in late sixteenth century Munich, the legacy of past emperors visual arrangement of their portraiture, which symbolized his immortality and glory. 15 The eighteenth century European Enlightenment gradually brought an end to the privately viewed prince ly galleries, and across Europe, a wave of transformations took place which led to the establishment of the first public art museums. Throughout Europe, several royal collections that were once only viewed by special guests visiting the prince were now bei ng turned into public museums by royalty itself. Pope Clement XIV opened the Pio Clementino in Rome in 1773 which contained a par t of the Vatican collection; the Uffizi Palace in Florence which secured a collection of Medici paintings was o pened as an art gallery in 1795; and the Belvedere Palace in Vienna which acquired the Hapsburg collection opened in about 1776. 16 In France, the 14 Prior 19 15 Prior, 20. 16 Bazin, 162 163.


31 gardens of Versailles were opened to the public under Louis XIV, and under Louis XV, 110 paintings and drawings were exhibited to the public twice a week at the Luxembourg Palace. The European Enlightenment firstly by introducing a new system of display that put the objects in the context of art history, and second ly by using this new form of display as a way of educating the public. 17 18 where art was being reorganized ac cording to the moment of history that it represented, and museums had a new purpose to collect art that represented significant periods of art history. Works of art were no longer symbols of the power of the monarchy and instead demonstrated the cultural a chievement and individual genius of man. Simultaneous with the opening of public galleries and museums was the publication of History of Ancient Art in 1764 which introduced a new form of classification placing art in the narratives of human progress with relation to both specific national art schools such as Italian, French, Dutch and Flemish, and to the broader strides of civilization. 19 The art was henceforth classified according to school and chronology. Ac thought was the adherence to a more secular and inner worldly universe of belief which 17 Philip Fisher is a Professor of English and American Literature at Harvard University See Philip Fisher, in Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts, ed Bettina Messias Carbonell (Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub, 2004), 439. 18 Fisher, 439. 19 Prior, 33


32 stressed system, order, and the application of rational principles of classification to what previously 20 The formation of the public art museum in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries also caused shifting social relations between the visitor and the col lection. The visitor was now were attributed to individual and artistic genius versus the prince The visitor was also no longer at t but as a citizen of equal rights who had as follows: The public art museum addressed its visitor as a bourgeois citizen who enters the museum in search of enlightenment and rationally understood pleasures. In the museum, this citizen finds a culture that unites him with other French citizens reg ardless of their individual social position. He also encounters there the state itself, embodied in the very form of the museum. spiritual life and guardian of the most evolved an d civilized culture of which the human spirit is capable. All this it presents to every citizen, rationally organized and clearly labeled. Thus does the art museum enable the citizen state relationship to appear as realized in all its potential. 21 So how di d the newly f ormed public art museum fit within the ideals of the new European nations? And who was their public? Ideally, public institutions including the museum were meant to exude universal values that encouraged public access despite differences in class, gender, and social status. However, as Pierre Bourdieu has analyzed, public art museums remained exclusive destinations fo r the middle class elite, and they implemented Enlightenment a limited tional institution that was deemed to be fully democratic, the public art museum instead created a divide between groups. In its emergence as an 20 Prior 33. 21 Carol Duncan, Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums (London; New York: Routledge, 1995), 26.


33 institution of high culture, the public art museum was inher ently forming codes tha t discouraged behavior cons regulation on acts of vandalism, swearing, drinking, and touching pictures seemed to discriminate against people who were not educated or privileged. Therefore, although the museum intended to be a n educational institution for the public sphere, in many ways, it prevented and h aving a fair chance at an educational experience. For example, the Louvre provided little assistance to those who need ed guidan ce despite its new identity as an educational institution. In other parts of Europe, art museums had restricted hours that prevented the working class from attending. Also, the Hermitage required its visitors to dress in aristocratic apparel and acquire an admission ticket. Pierre Bourdieu thought of the art museum as a discriminatory cultural institution whose artistic pleasures could only be truly appreciated by those who had educational and high cultural dispositions. 22 Therefore, to truly understa nd art and decipher it aesthetically using the knowledge of the art classification process, he believed that cultural competence was a precondition. According to Bourdieu, the lower classes could only decipher art in terms of its function, such as its age renown and price, categories which they were familiar with from their social situations. These largely opposing perceptions of art greatly influenced the creation of a restricted/high culture and a large scale/popular culture in the nineteenth century, and museums together with other avenues of high art such as orchestras and theatres enforced the distinctions of these social groups. Therefore, the emergence of the public art museum, although 22 Prior, 54.


34 heavily influence d by the European Enlightenment, was largely exclusive in its limited access to the bourgeois public sphere or middle class, which ironically emerged as a result of ideals of universality and equal civil liberties. In its elevation to a high er status, the bourgeois ie had created an aesthetic space for themselves that symbolized class distinctions as when it is dressed up in the idioms of democracy, citizenship or universal 23 Even today, we see universal museum s such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Lo uvre, and the Rijksmuseum face the cha llenging situation of having either to simplify exhibitions for the general public or keep their high standards reflect ing connoisseurial values. The question of which pu blic the universal museum is serving remains to be answered. Colonization and Anti imperialist Thought that were fostered in the eighteenth century became concretized during the establishment influence created a bourgeois ie middle class that separated itself from the larger common people in a grand effort to wrest authority from the earlier monarchs. The bour geois of the nineteenth century were interested in a capitalist system that was not hindered by state regulations in an effort to enhance economic growth. There was a new wave of commercialism that encouraged international trade and brought more wealth in to the growing imperial powers of France, Britain, Germany, Portugal, Holland, Belgium and Spain. This economic growth further stimulated the European nations to 23 Prior, 56.


35 invest in exploration outside the European periphery. It wa s in the mindset of economic expans ion amongst the bourgeois of European nations that a new imperialism was born, resulting in colonial expansion across vast territories of the world. By the late nineteenth century, the Portuguese, Spanish, British, French, Dutch, German, and Belgian empi res each had a share of the world: Consider that in 1800 Western powers claimed 55 percent but actually held proportion was 67 percent, a rate of increase of 83,000 square miles per year. By 1914, the annual rate had risen to an astonishing 240,000 square miles, and Europe held a grand total of roughly 85 percent of the earth as colonies, protectorates, dependencies, dominions, and commonwealths. 24 Enlightenment thinkers suc h as Deni s Diderot, Immanuel Kant and Joh ann Gottfried Herder were against the concept of colonialism, and believed that its implementation of slavery, expropriation of property, and forced labor were antithetical to the principles of the Enlightenment including t he importance of reason and self governance. Unlike popular imperialist thought at the time, Diderot, Kant and Herder did not believe that E non Western territories. Their thoughts against colonization were essent ial components of anti imperialist thought, and were groundbreaking considering the wave of imperialistic fervor that was taking place in eighteenth century Europe. In his book titled Enlightenment against Empire, Sankar Muthu studies Enlightenment anti imperialism and reflects on the historical anomalies of the Enlightenment era that brought fervent anti imperialist thought from Enlightenment 24 Harry Magdoff, Imperialism: from the colonial age to the present : essays (New York: Monthly Review Press, 197 8), 29, 35, quoted in Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism ( New York: Vintage Books, 1994), 8.


36 thinkers such as Diderot, Kant, and Herder. 25 Muthu believed that in the time before and after the Enlightenment e ra (late seventeenth century and early nineteenth century), philosophers were either agnostic towards imperialism or in full favor of it. However, the Enlightenment era brought new light to anti imperialist thought and new ground was established on the r elationship between European and non European people. Diderot, Kant, and Herder sought to explore the relationship between human unity and human diversity, believing that each concept was heavily intertwined. Although they did not consider all cultures t o be equal (multiculturalism starts to arise in the nineteenth century), they be lieved that culture s could not be deemed inferior or superior to one another. More importantly, they believed that humans were fundamentally cultural, that nd exercise, simply by virtue of being human, a range of rational, emotive, aesthetic, and imaginative capacities that create, sustain, and transform 26 And in recognizing diversity in human other words, he emphasized that human beings all share similar desires to create workable rules of conduct that allow particular ways of life to flourish without themselves creating har 27 brutality because when the colonists were far away from legal institutions and informal sanctions, the habits of restraint fell away, exposing n atural man's full instinct for 25 Sankar Muthu, Enlightenment Against Empire (Prince ton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003), 1. Sankar Muthu is a Professor under the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. 26 Muthu, 7 8. 27 Muthu, 77.


37 28 In light of the unfamiliarity of cultural practices of the indigenous people that were encountered by the Europeans, Diderot believed that colonists had to recognize that the ability to develop such different cul tural and aesthetic practices was a universal human concept that was inherent to man. In this sense, an early development can be observed in studying the relationship between universalism and cultural plurality during the Enlightenment era. As the cruel t reatment of the colonies came to light in Europe, its contested reception by anti imperialist Enlightenment thinkers introduced nuances of cultural particularity and human diversity, and the concept of universalism became less abstract and superficial, and instead became a part of a substantial political movement of Enlightenment anti imperialism. Conclusion The public art museum in Europe, the prototype of the universal museum, had been established with an outward appearance of embodying universal rights a nd individualistic expression, although in pr actice it remained as a space for the bourgeois ie or middle class elite. The eighteenth century European Enlightenment had created a public sphere that evolved into a new form of bourgeois distinctio n in the ni neteenth century, nurtur ing the public art museum as a sanctuary of high art and culture to s sphere. As described earlier in the chapter, the European Enlightenment itself began as an intellectual movement for the el ite, with grand ideals of repudiation of aristocratic authority and est ablishment of equal rights as actively discussed by the gr eat philosophers of the time 28


38 The European Enlightenment and universal museum appear to be ambiguous in upholding values of univer sality. As Linda Nochlin stated religion and at the same time a utilitarian instrument of democratic education, the 29 As described in this chapter, of the public art museum was multi dimensional. Although it did democratize the art viewing experience in museums by providing greater accessibility to a larger public sphere, it also harnessed the art museum as a place of social distinction. It also played a role in the rise of European nations in the early nineteenth century, thereby bringing together universal values under a nationalistic purpose. As Enlightenment thinkers Diderot, Kant, and Smith have mentioned, to simplify the European Enlightenment as an expression of hope and optimism that called for universal rights and equality was problematic as it ignored the inherent capacity of human beings to have diverse cultural traditions and te ndencies. Today, universal museums use the argument of universality as a legitimate being interconnected. Using the European Enlightenment as the foundation of univer salism, universal museums argue that they should be exempt from claims for repatriation as they represent citizens of all nations and bring universal admiration to the ancient civilizations of the world. In only promoting the concept of universality or cos mopolitanism as the essence of Enlightenment, universal museum directors tend to neglect the plural nature of the European Enlightenment as described above, and 29 Linda Nochlin, Museums and radicals: a history of emergencies (New York: Art in America, Inc., 1971), 646.


39 should consider the prospect of diversifying their understanding of the Enlightenment to mean m ore than universal of the mounting repatriation claims they are receiving from former colonies and other source countr ies from whom the objects were taken. The impending fear of a mass repatriation taking place initiated the publication of the Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums. As demonstrated in the following chapter the Declaration has create d a rift between universal museums and former colonies, with the former taking on a cultural internationalist approach that upholds universalist values, and the latter taking on a cultur al nationalist approach in the superseding cultural property debate.


40 CHAPTER 3 UNIVERSAL MUSEUMS AN D SOURCE COUNTRIES: THE CURRENT CULTURAL PROPERTY DEBATE The Dispersal of Cultural Property During the European colonization of Asia, the Americas and Africa, many cultural treasures were plundered and brought back to Europe and housed in the early prototypes of the universal museum the public art museums. With the extension of European rule to colonial territories, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries witnessed scientific field studies were conducted, and hoards of objects were collected by the individual colonial empires, mostly as a form of competition betwe en European nations, thereby destroying the cultural treasures of colonies even further. The rivalries between France and Britain resulted in the removal of cultural treasures from Greece and Egypt in epic proportions, with most antiquities falling under the care of the British Museum and the Louvre. Examples of treasures that were amassed as a d irect result of this rivalry were the Parthenon Marbles from Greece, and the Rosetta stone and colossal head of Rameses II from Egypt. 1 The most notable large scale event of colonial plunder took place under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte after the French Revolution during the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. General Bonaparte was responsible for bringin g back innumerable objects to France from other European states. During his Italian campaign, he brought major masterpieces back to France including the Apollo Belvedere, Laocon, Dying Gaul, Transfiguration, Saint 1 Jeanette Greenfield, The Return of Cultural Treasures 3rd ed. (Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 98.


41 Jerome. 2 Napoleon also had a strong interest in Egypt and sent a team of scientists, artists and engineers to document Egyptian flora, fauna, geography, buildings, and monuments. His fascination with Egypt led to the ruthless removal of magnificent treasures that generously enhanced the collection at the Lo uvre, while leaving Egypt literally emptied of its ancient civilization. When Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo in 1815, the Louvre, then known as the Muse Napolon, returned 2,065 pictures and 130 sculptures subsequently regain ing its original title. This was largely as a result of the 1815 Congress of Vienna which required that all cultural property appropriated during the Napoleonic Wars be returned to their countries of origin. 3 Interestingly, this treaty was designed by the former monarchs of P russia, Britain, Russia and Austria who wanted to reclaim their cultural property from France and to prohibit cultural treasures from ever being considered legitimate war booty ag ain. The redistribution of ar t that took place occurred on the basis of retu rning objects to their original geographical locations, an early precedent to the nation based cultural property returns that are taking place today. As a result of this treaty, plundering art within Europe became immoral and illegal. However, the plunde r of art outsid e Europe continued as fair activity, and the continents of Africa, Asia, and Latin America continued to be exploited uninhibitedly in the name of sovereignty of a recognized power. Looting from these regions was not contested. The 2 Bazin, 176. 3 Lewis, 379 381.


42 4 Universal m useums such a s the British Museum and the Louvre became the principal holders of this colonial plunder, and their collections grew at an unpr ecedented scale during this period. In the late nineteenth century up until World War II, universal museums also accumulated ma ny cultural treasures through a system known as partage, or partager in French, meaning, to share. 5 Through partage, archaeological finds were divided between the host country and the excavating party. It is through the system of partage that the bust of Nefertiti became part of the collection of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, Germany. Partage was als the formation of university archaeological collections at Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago, and the Un iversity of Pennsylvania. 6 Partage gave incentive for foreign expeditions to excavate and provided archaeological training to the host country. However, with the rise of nationalism in source countries, and the implementation of cultural property as belo nging to the state, partage was abolished. James Cuno fervently supports the return of partage to tackle the current cultural property debate. He reprimands archaeologists for supporting the nationalistic ideologies of source 4 Barkan, 20. 5 John Henry Merryman, Albert Edward Elsen, and Stephen K. Urice. Law, Ethics, and the Visual Art s (London: Kluwer Law International, 2007), 414. 6 Cuno, 14.


43 countries, stating that they should instead withhold their expertise until source countries agreed to share their archaeological finds. 7 The Cultural Property Debate Today, in a post colonial and post Enlightenment world, past colonies that are mostly from the developing world are beginning to vehemently question past methods of colonial empires. With the empowerment of nations outside Europe, people are now demanding compensation for the injustices that were cau sed during colonization and demanding that the ir cultural property be returned. As highlighted in the previous section, many colonies endured large scale confiscation of thousands of objects that were a part of their cultural heritage A significant proportion of these objects found their way into t he collections of present day universal museums in Europe and the United States. These museums are tainted with the tangible consequences of colonization and are now in the scrutiny of the public as a result of rapidly growing requests for repatriation of objects from past colonies. on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, the first inter national convention solely based on the protection of the w the aftermath of World War II. 8 As refutation of the acts that had divided the world after World War II, the Hague Convention tried to exercise a more global and unified perspective towar ds the damage that had been committed to cultural pro perty all over the world, bequeathing those objects and monuments with more universal significance. 7 Cuno, 154. 8 For full view of 1954 Hague convention, see Patty Gerstenblith, 745 757.


44 people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind, since each 9 This was a culturally internationalist approach that began to shift towards an emphasis on the local communities and individual nations in the 1980s as a result of a gradu al recognition of all cultures being equal and the subsequent de centering of cul ture from the European centrality 10 New questions were being asked regarding the definition of cultural property. Was cultural property national, international or local? The repeated shifting national boundaries over centuries also added to the dilemma of determining where cultural property truly belonged. Modern nations favored the protection of cultural property as national sovereignty while battling internal contradictions with local communities who believed that objects were best preserved under their own care. The focus on local communities and individual nations also arose as a result of the growing illegal trade of antiquities that had resulted in objects being transfe rred from the typically poor, art rich nations to the wealthy, art holding nations. The shift from international to national also resulted in making previous legal transfers illegal. The dominant international legislation that was established and that co ntinues to govern the illicit trade of antiquities between nations is the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. 11 Unlike the 1954 Hague Convention, the language in the 1970 9 Gerstenblith, 475. 10 Barkan, 22 11 For full view of 1970 convention, see Gerstenblith, 771 779.


45 constitutes one of the basic elements of civilization and national culture, and that its true value can be appreciated only in relation to the full est possible information available 12 In addition in Article 1 of the grounds is specifically designated by each Stat e as being of importance for 13 The issue of repatriating cultural property as a means of substantiating a re distributed to other European nations upon the establishment of the Treaty of Paris in 1815. Although the two scenarios bear similarities in that the legislation of both periods call for a return of cultural property based on their source locations, the c ountries that are fighting for their cultural property today are former colonies that are largely poor and do not have the power to implement and exec ute the laws enacted by former European monarchs. Moreover, the current cultural property debate is now t a king place on a global scale that has to work around the import and export regulations of individual nations, not to mention the policies of museums that are holding contested objects. Cultural I nternationali sm v ersus Cultural N ationalism Universal mu seums and source countries that are demanding restitution of their cultural property represent two different cultural property law theories. Un iversal museums represent the internationalist or p aternalist theory which determines that cultural property bel ongs to all of mankind and should be looked after by thos e who can 12 Gerstenblith, 772 13 Gerstenblith, 772


46 best take care of it A strong advocate of the internationalist theory is John Henry Merryman, who has vehemently supported the Parthenon marbles remaining in Britain, claiming that they a re not exposed to city pollution and civil war. To the internationalist, the sovereignty of a na tion bears no relevance and he determine s that if a country has an abundance of cultural resources that it does not have the capacity to take care of, then th ose resources should be given to those who can, to be preserved for the good of mankind. 14 claim for the return of the Parthenon Marbles, claiming that they would take care of the marble s until Greece is able to do so. However, although the Acropolis Museum was built in 2008 with a special gallery to display the Parthenon Marbles, the British Museum continues to decline return, and even argues that the Parthenon Marbles are now a part of the protection of monuments considered to be of universal cultural significance that have been threatened by natural and political destruction. For example, a unified f ront of museum and cultural heritage experts tried to prevent the unlawful destruction of the ancient Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban although they were ultimately destroyed nonetheless in 2001. 15 In another example, in an effort to preserve the Abu Simbel Temples in Egypt from being flooded as a result of the construction of the Aswan High Dam, an international campaign was created in 1959 to relocate the temples to a higher level, which was accomplished between 1964 and 1968 as a result of internat ional donations. The universal museum uses the internationalist theory and the European 14 Hutt, 22. 15 For further information on the deliberate destruction of the Buddha Statues which vio lated interna tional law,


47 Enlightenme on the basis that they are the rightful caretakers o The nationalist theory determines that the original provenance of an object determines ownership and that the object holds high value and is of the most benefit if maintained place of origin. Therefore, to the source country, possessing its cultural propert y is its inalienable right. The dem and for restitution is based on the assumption that, notwithstanding economic and political changes over time, or even demographic and cultural discontinuities, cultural property remains part of the identity of its original owners, determined primarily by geographical affinity. The psychological basis for such an attachment is that the object is part of the 16 Sovereign control plays a supreme role and if an object has been wrongfully removed in the past, the nationalist se eks for its return despite possible destruction or neglect in its place of origin. The global significance of the object bears no relevance to the nationalist. 17 Universal Museums and Cultural I nternationalism Neil MacGregor has been the main proponent e mbracing the idea of universality in encyclopedic collections and is considered largely responsible for the Declaration, having requested other muse institutions. 18 The British Museum, compared to other universal m useums, faces largely contentious claims for return of objects such as the Parthenon Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, and the 16 Barkan, 32. 17 Hutt, 23. 18 (November 2004): 190, < > (accessed September 12, 2009).


48 Benin Bronzes. MacGregor has continually insisted that their existence in the British Museum is crucial to the worldwide appreciation i t deserves and that this cannot be achieved elsewhere. He has communicated that: In the British Museum the visitor can see how the achievement of fifth century Athens could not have been created without the civilizations of Egypt and Assyria, and indeed t he great enemy, Persia, but it is perhaps only in the British Museum that the full measure of the Greek achievement can be grasped. Walking through the galleries you can see how the Greek reinvention of the human form changed sculpture from Turkey to India as well as providing the visual vocabulary for the entire Roman Empire. 19 His perspective is vital in securing the status of a universal museum but has also resulted in closer scrutiny of his justifications for keeping these objects in the British Museum For example, he i he life of these objects [the Parthenon Marbles] as part of the story of the Parthenon is over. They can't go back to 20 Marb les returned are not credible as he does not believe that the marbles are a key comparing Britain clean record of European democracy and imperial conquest to that of Greece, expressing the view that the British Museum has no right to exercise such authority based on a requirement of having an untainted record of democracy. 21 the British Museu 19 The Sunday Times, January 18th, 2004 quoted in Tom a valid model for the 21 st Tom Flynn, < > (accessed September 25, 2009), 22. 20 Financial Times June 13, 2003 quoted in Flynn, 4. 21 193.


49 With two hundred years of hindsight, we have a new perspective on the multi dimensional nature of the European Enlightenment beyond universality, its indirect contribution to the rise of European nationalism and subsequent imperialism and colonization of non European territories, causing the dispossession of many valuable cultural treasures. In an unpublished document on the validity of universal museums, Tom Flynn states the following re garding the consequences of the European Enlightenment: The Enlightenment carries a particularly persuasive cultural charge for it is to this historical reference point that we ascribe the source of our modern day ideals of free citizenship, social justice and rational inquiry, all During the nineteenth century, those same imperatives came to underpin the scientific and industrial aspirations of the European colonial powers, who believe 22 Therefore, in understanding the complicated nature of the Enlightenment, the British heritage is quite deplorable. However, unlike previous directors of the British Museum, MacGregor must be given due credit for encouraging debate on the topic of repatriation which has played a significant role in promoting dialogue with source nations. For example, the British Museum collaborated with the National Middle East and Asia. Accor ding to MacGregor, the exhibit 23 22 Flynn, 17 23 MacGregor, Whose Culture?: The Promise of Museums and the Debate Over Antiquities, 53 54.


50 great obligations of the encyclopedic museums like the British Museum: to send exhibitions like this around the world, to allow the whole world to have access to a 24 While it is commendable that MacGregor is allowing some objects of the British Museum to travel to source countries, these select incidents of philanthropy do not tackle the cor e issues surrounding why the British Museum should continue exercise authority over the context in which objects need to be displayed. If the British Museum were to uphold the views of the Enlightenment thinkers who believed in cultural plurality versus universalism, it would take greater strides to encourage discussion between itself and the countries/communities involved in determining how significant certa world that is more culturally diverse than it has ever been and that better recognizes the equal significance of different cultures, it would seem more advantageous to promote mutual relationships rath er than battle claims for ownership. I believe that the myopic focus on determining where an object belongs, takes us away from the larger problem of determining how universal museums can find a solid method of promoting cross cultural awareness in a plur alist society, thereby determining its relevance in the 21 st century. According to Tristram Bertram, former Director of the Manchester Museum, if museums do not properly analyze aspects of context and consent in a collaborative manner in solving repatri At least two principles should guide museums in dealing with claims: context and consent. In analyzing context, both the historical circumstances in which the remains of people left their source community and entered the 24 MacGregor, Whose Culture?: The Promise of Museums and the Debate Over Antiquities 53


51 museum, and the current circumstances of the claim should be sensitively explored. The spirit and conduct of enquiry should involve a dialogue between the museum and source community that r ecognizes equity and be informed by respect, to avoid adding a third stage of violation. By extension, consent or the lack of it is a crucial factor in past dispossession and present possession. The racial constructs of nineteenth century science and m useum practice can resonate uncomfortably in the twenty first, if holding institutions fail to engage appropriately with claimant communities. 25 James Cuno is also a strong supporter of universal museums and calls the British Museum an inspiration for all e 26 He also believes that present day national laws that protect the cultural property withi 27 Cuno has stated that present day nations have no affinity for the makers of those antiquities except in inhabiting the same location at a different time: What is the relationship between, say, modern Egypt and the antiquities day Cairo do not speak the language of the ancient Egyptians, do not practice their r eligion, do not make their art, wear their dress, eat their food, or play their music, and do not adhere to the same kind of laws or form of government the ancient Egyptians did. 28 Who Owns Antiquity? which have infuriated many source countries, not to mention museum professionals who do not support the universal museum. It is ironic that Cuno simplifies 25 in Museum International volume 61, issue 241 2 (2009), < URL_ID=39227&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html > (accessed January 20 th 2010). 26 Cuno, 140. 27 Cuno, 141. 28 Cuno, 9.


52 when it was a rise in nationalism amongst nineteenth century European states that exponentially enhanced the collections of European museums with material cultures from the non Western world. As Sharon Waxman wrote in her bestseller Loot: The Battle ove r the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World: The creation of Western museums like the British Museum whatever the official philosophy was actually informed by power, by empires that felt entitled to occupy distant lands and claim their cultural patrimo ny along with their natural resources, to take the symbols of ancient civilizations from elsewhere and fill their own museums with trophies that confirmed their power in the world. The scourge of nationalism followed in the nineteenth century, continuing f erociously into the twentieth century. Without doubt, the momentum of that force propelled countries like Greece and Egypt to preserve the past for their own purposes. But there is no small irony in this, for nationalism is a wholly European invention. 29 Th erefore, it should seem acceptable that source countries that have become politically independent in the twentieth century would want to symbolize the power of their states through the representation of their own culture, much in the same way that the Louv re exhibited cultures of the world to portray its status as a powerful European state. In the case of the nations, it would seem fair that the objects that were stolen from their lands during colonial conquest play a strong role in symbolizing that indepe ndence. Also, we must not forget that the transitory nature of nat ional boundaries of today exist largely as a result of colonization which is responsible for forming the current national boundaries of African and Asian countries. The original geographic location of an object means very little to Cuno. But if he is to accept the reality of the political and cultural nature of our world today, he sh ould understand that nations have attached a strong all egiance to 29 Waxman, 268


53 the protection of their cultural heritage within present borders. And international legislation from UNESCO, UNIDROIT and ICOM also support the safeguarding of a civilizations should not be a factor in determin ing the ownership of an object. It is shocking that Cuno even remarks that a difference in the legal system of ancient and present day Egyptian s disqualifies the latter from the right of ownership. Does this mean that all countries requesting objects sho uld exhibit cultural traits of t he past occupiers in order to be qualified? It is also shocking that Cuno declares that countries such as Egypt, Greece, and Italy that have continually made requests for the return of cultural property should not have the right to the own ership of their objects while expect ing those countries to continue sharing their antiquities with others. Cuno has argued consistently against national retentionist cultural property laws and believes that they isolate different cultu res and their objects under a false system of national classification. However, housing objects of different cultures under one roof of an encyclopedic mus eum does not necessarily deprive that object of affinity for its national identity. When we visit a museum today we are continually drawn to the labels. For example, when we view Egyptian art at the Metropolitan Mu seum of Art, we are reminded of Egypt the coun try, and are even motivated to visit the country to be able to see more of its cultural achievements. As described above, many cultural and political events have resulted in a national emphasis on cultural property since World War II. It seems that alb eit being in need of vast improvement, national patrimony laws represent the only practical solution


54 for rty against illicit trafficking. Moreover, it is time for the independent nations of the non Western world to experience national glory using their cultural property as symbols of power. If the European empires once used the artifacts of distant cultures to celebrate their own glory, then it would seem more reasonable for present nations to celebrate th e artifacts of cultures that once existed on their own lands. However, many nations do not have the capability to take care of the objects that are already with in their control, and using the policies set by UNESCO and ICOM, universal museums would do wel l to find methods of assisting these countries in a non authoritative manner as a form of morality for the injustices that have been caused in the past. Universal Museums and Cultural N ationalism In addition to the individual governments of source coun tr ies that are requesting the return of their cultural property, ICOM and UNESCO have also in the past three decades begun initiatives to establish le gal precedents that support national patrimony As described in previous sections of this chapter, the emphasis on assigning a national identity to cultural property has taken place as a result of the growing illicit trade of antiquities and the gradual acknowledgement over time of the fact that all cultures are equal. The views of the local and the nation are often supported by archaeologists and anthropologists as well as those who favor objects remaining in close proximity if not returned to their original context. Therefore, returning an object o f cultural significance to a museum t hat is near its original provenie nce is more favorable to the nationalist. However, museums in the West, including universal museums, think otherwise, believing that the objects have more to offer in juxtaposition with other cultures, not to mention being viewed by an international public.


55 In response to the Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums, Geoffrey Lewis, ICOM Chair of the Ethics Committee, published a rebuttal in a 2004 edition of ICOM News 30 Lewis states that the key issue that universal museums are working 31 He also mentions that professional and political legislation from UNESCO and ICOM support the notion that cultural property plays an important role in expressing the cultural heritage of a nation when it is in its own territory. In acknowledging that national protection o f cultural property does not fit the role of the universal museum advocated by the signatories of the Declar way forward is more likely to be achieved through partnerships between museums. 32 He questions the authoritative la nguage of the Declaration that presumes to speak for the presumption that a museum with universally defined objectives may be considered 33 He also addresses the fact that there has been no sign of reconciliation following the Declaration with museum directors continuing to reinforce the Enlightenment mod el without addressing the real issues at hand. For instance, universal museums continue to ignore demands of individual nations and instead exercise authority over their right to 30 Lewis, 379 381. 31 Lewis, 379. 32 Lewis, 380 33 Lewis, 379.


56 Ins tead, they should find collaborative solutions with museum and cultural heritage experts from source countries. This would be a huge step forward in the direction of equitable solutions. s collections, there is no hope of conciliatory changes to the cultural property debate. Lewis su ggests that universal museums should not focus on the ownership of function of museums in the twenty 34 In understanding the steps that museums are taking in the twenty first century to demonstrate equity with a strong educational emphasis in a highly diverse environment, Lewis suggests exploring the potential of having profitable partnerships with countries that have lost a significant part of their cultur al heritage which should not be limited to methods of display, loans, and exchanges. He addresses the importance of ICOM Code 6 in fulfilling this par tnership museums work in close collaboration with the communities from which their collections originate as well as those they serve. 35 He states that finding a legal solution to ownership claims is often mitigated by a lack of documentation and the non retroactive nature of international law. In the context of repatriation disputes, t he code suggests that museums should be open to dialogues with the country or people of origin which should take place in an impartial manner based on the principles of local, 34 Lewis, 381. 35 ICOM Code of Ethics can be accessed electronically on the ICOM website at < > (accessed 10 October 2009)


57 national and international legislation. The case stu dies of the Ben in Bronzes a nd the Parthenon Marbles in the following chapter will specifically demonstrate the difficulties in establishing legal solutions to repatriation claims of colonial plunder. Conclusion T wo centuries since the Enlightenment era, we are able to marvel at t he pursuit of knowledge by European scholars in their creation of a comprehensive method for encyclopedic collecting and a specific art historical program of display which continues to be maintained in universal museums today. However, we are also left wi th a clear understanding of the price paid by many source countries in the pursuit of knowledge and famed national stature because of the colonial plunder that exploited the cultural treasures of many territories. Enlightenment thinkers Diderot, Kant, and Herber, have argued against imperialism and colonialism and its effects on distant territories. Their analyses of the European Enlightenment, as well as the analyses of post modern philosophers such as Sankar Muthu, have provided a more pluralistic charac ter, which has largely challenged the all encompassing concept of universality. The belief that mankind could be studied exclusively as a part of history, separately from the divine, was a significant contribution of Enlightenment insight. The revolutio nary ideas of civil rights and freedom of religion, and the study of the progress of mankind by Enlightenment philosophers were taking place in opposition to the former feudal Ancien Rgime which was governed by aristocratic and monarchial values. 36 Howeve r, as described above, these Enlightenment insights manifested into 36 The Anci n Regime refers to the aristocratic, feudal system that was established in France between the 14 th and 18 th centuries This system of governance was removed during the French Revolution of 1789. Anci n Regime can also refer to other former political systems in Europe that had simil ar origins.


58 nationalistic aims towards the latter stages of the eighteenth century. And the rise in European nationalism also led to the colonization of distant territories, which further increased t he powers of the European empires. Also, the European Enlightenment was only experienced by the bourgeois ie of European society throughout the Enlightenment era, and the class distinctions were heavily embedded in the art historical programme of the early universal museums. Therefore, the principles of universality of the Enlightenment were only experienced by the European elite, and for a long time, the European public sphere as well as all non European cultures had no place in experiencing its advancemen ts. The ripple effects of the European Enlightenment were more than just universal. In hindsight, the Enlightenment was heavily intertwined in European nationalism with Eurocentric ideals that are antithetical to universal principles. Therefore, for un iversal museums to persistently use the argument of taking care of objects for the world would require reverting to eighteenth century ideology. It even seems derogatory for universal museums to reduce the European Enlightenment to such a simplistic cause because it disregards the pluralistic nature of its contributions. Therefore, to use the serving as it does not help in tackling the cultural property matters of the twenty first century. Eight ye ars have passed since the publication of the Declaration and we are yet to see universal museum directors develop a substantial approach w ith source countries that abandon s their exertion of authority, and instead promotes dialogue and acknowledges they would take great strides in develop ing long term partnerships that would assist


59 those countries that have a lost a significant part of their cultural heritage, while forming a r elationship of trust that would allow them to continue borrowing art and furthering research on those cultures. As Tom Flynn communicated regarding the desires of is culture and the narratives that circulate around it. Instead they argue for the construction of a more internationalist, collaborative approach that restores the importance and 37 Bu t what steps are being taken by universal museums to devise more coherent methods that demonstrate universal perspective without projections of Western cultural ted in his essay on enlightenment museums, universal museums have the great potential to be able to develop new methods of communication with source countries with the purpose of resolving past injustices of the colonial past, and finding a truly universal method of portraying the cultural differences of the world that would promote mutual understanding, and more importantly, instill a form of respect between both parties. 38 37 Flynn, 3 38


60 CHAPTER 4 CASE STUDY OF THE BENIN BRONZES : THE BATTLE FOR THE RETURN OF CULTURAL TREASURES T O AFRICA Introduction The eighteenth century European Enlightenment brought about unprecedented change to Europe that revolutionized the structure of political and cultural institutions as well as European society. The Enlightenment had inspired many movements which included the scientific revolution, technological advances and a secular pursuit of knowledge based on logical reasoning. There was a new form of humanitarianism that strived for strong principles of univers al human rights, self governance, and freedom. More specifically, the Enlightenment had inspired the rise of the European nations in the nineteenth century, and the competition for national glory drove each nation to colonize as many distant territories a s possible. The continent of Africa was deeply affected and influen ced by European colonization which reshaped the political and economic structure of each territory. In addition, this resulted in an exploitation of human resources due to the slave trade, as well as the imperial plunder of cultural treasures. As the European nations began to possess different parts of African territory, they also plundered freely as an uncontested occ urrence and the looted cultur al objects continued to furnish museums, including the early universal museums, in Europe, as tangible evidence of took place in the se venteenth and eighteenth cent uries, it continued in Africa late into the nineteenth and early twentieth centur ies Significant cultural treasures that were removed at this time inclu de the Ashanti Gold from Ghana in 1874, the Benin Bronzes


61 from modern Nig eria in 1897, and t he Magdala Treasures from Ethiopia in 1868. 1 Each of these treasures was removed through British punitive expeditions as a result of conflict against each kingdom. Most of these treasures have been dispersed among museum and library col lection s in the United Kingdom, including the British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, British Library, Royal Museums of Scotland, and the National Museums at Liverpool. The Benin Bronzes are also found as major collections in Berlin and in New York, Phi ladelphia and Chicago. 2 This section will focus on the plunder of the Benin bronzes and the current difficulties faced by Nigeria with regards to the illicit art trade as an example of the obstacles faced by African nation s in attempting to have their cul tural treasures returned to them. Case Study of the Benin Bronzes The Benin Bronzes are considered royal art made by a specialist gild of bronze casters for the Oba, king of Benin. The bronzes were made exclusively for the king and were kept in his pal ace. The Benin E mpire produced brass and ivory castings for several centuries until the punitive expedition of 1897, which discontinued the evolution of the Benin Bronze art. The punitive action was organized by the British naval expedition because a pre vious visiting British team had been killed when they attempted to interrupt a sacred ceremony being performed by the Oba. Fifteen hundred British forces stormed into Benin City and removed thousands of works of art ranging from brass head s, bronze plaque s, and ivory to wood carvings. The city was burned to the ground and the Oba was banished. Over 2,000 bronzes we re removed as war booty, arriving in London in 1897, and w ere dispersed to museums around the world. 1 Greenfield, 119, 122, 134. 2 Greenfield, 125


62 According to Greenfield, the British gov ernment wanted to sell the bronzes to pay for the expenses of invading and destroying the city of Benin. 3 In fact, an article in the Illustrated London News considered to represent one of the great empires of Africa. 4 According to Follarin Shyllon, Nigeria holds the fifth largest collection of Benin Bronzes after Berlin, London, Oxford, and New Y ork. 5 It is reported that one bronze figure has been valued as much as £185,000. 6 In 1977, Nigeria requested a loan from the British Museum of a fifteenth century Benin ivory mask for a pan African fe stival in Lagos Although the British Museum initiall y requested a £2 million insurance bond, it later rejected the loan request stating that the mask was too fragile to travel. 7 W hen the National Museum of Benin was being constructed in the 1960s, the Nigerian government requested donations from countries holding large quantities of Benin Bronzes in the form of a resolution that was presented at the General Assembly of ICOM in France in 1968. 8 Although the resolution was circulated to the embassies and high commissions of those countries, Nigeria did not re ceive a single response. Eventually, Nigeria had to compete with other countries in auction houses in Europe to buy back its own cultural heritage Further in 1980, the government of Nigeria bought five Nigerian works of art at a total cost of eight h un 3 Greenfield, 124 4 Greenfield, 123 5 Shyl lon, 143. 6 Greenfield, 125 7 Shyllon, 137 8 Shyllon, 139


63 from Sotheby in London to enhance its collection of Benin objects for its new museum. 9 More recently, in 2002, the Nigerian government formally requested the British Museum to return its collection of Benin Bronzes. H oweve r the collection remains at the British Museum. Obstacles F aced by Nigeria in Repatriating Cultural Property The inability for Nigeria to have the Benin Bronzes returned to the m is one of many cases shared by the art rich countries in Africa. According to Follarin Shyllon, Professor of Law at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, there a re several reasons why Nigeria has not had favorable responses with regards to the return of cult ural property, including Benin Bronzes. The main reasons are the current illicit trade of antiquities, cases of corruption within museums in Nigeria that have shown the participation of staff in art theft, a lac k of a proper museum system, facilities to preserve and document objects, and a lack of participation in internationa l treaties. Prior to its independence in 1963, Nigeria had already enforced several laws to control the export of its antiquities, largely as a result of the disappearance of Ife bronze heads since their discovery in 1938. 10 In the same year, the Nigeria n government enforced an Order in Council to control the export of its antiquities. The 1938 Order of Council was replaced in 1943 by another Order of Council and later by an Antiquities Act in 1953. In 1979, a Nigerian National Commission for Museums an d Monuments Act was created that superseded the above. 11 Despite the enforcement of export regulations, Nigeria saw a wave of art theft take place in the 1960s and 1970s, 9 Shyllon 139 10 Shyllon 138 11 Shyllon 138


64 regrettably during the same time that Nigeria and other African nations were gaining independence from their European colonizers. The disappearance of objects from Nigerian museums became a regular occurrence in the 1980s, when a variety of Nok, Ife, and Benin heads, amongst other valuable objects, appeared in Togo, Switzerland and the Un ited States. It was later discovered that a deale r who removed these objects was being assisted by the Nigerian government. 12 In addition, in 1991, the National Museum in Nigeria found two of its staff members in possession of two objects. Also, in 1993, a bronze stool was stolen from the Ife University Museum of Art and subsequently appeared in the United States. 13 Many professionals and African government appointees have discussed the need for drastic steps to be taken to reduce the plundering of Africa s cultural property. According to dele jegede, a Professor at Indiana African art, illicit trade in cultural property on the continent would not have assumed the alarming d 14 In this sense, we see a cyclical pattern between the illicit trafficking of cultural property and the return of cultural property. As long as the plunder of cultural objects continues to take place against export regulations, museums in the West are not willing to return objects in case of confiscation or destruction. However, the cyclical nature of the relationship also determines that museums in the West, including universal museums are sometimes the ultimate benefactors of these illicit goods, and therefore, should enforce 12 Plundering Africa's Past by eds. Roderick J. McIntosh and Peter R. Schmidt (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996) 136. 13 Greenfield 129 14 j egede, 127


65 stricter rules to ensure that the plundering can be reduced. In addition, museums in the West must not forget that they too encounter major cases of art theft. For example, on May 19, 2010, the Museum of Modern Art in Paris was raided by a lone robber who Le Pigeon aux Petits Pois La Pastorale, which have all been valued at £86 million at the very least. 15 The argument for preservation has been debated back and forth between museums and source countries. As a result of wars and corruption, denying restitution on the basis of preservation has become another form of justifica tion used by Western museums, including universal museums. A classic example of the preservationist argument has been used by the British Museum in the case of the Parthenon Marbles. The British Museum continued to state that Greece did not have the prop er facilities to take care of the Parthenon sculptures until the Acropolis Museum was opened in 2008. Now, their argument is largely based on the importance of the context provided by the British Museum in housing the marbles there. Their preservationist argument was largely refuted when news leaked in 1998 revealing how the British Museum had getting rid of what appeared to be original traces of color leaving the Greeks fur ious. 16 What was worse was that when the British Museum did find out about the damage, they 15 Guardian, May 20, 2010, < art theft picasso matisse > (accessed May 22, 2010). 16 A new edition of Lord Elgin and the Marbles by William St. Clai r that was published in 1998 exposed Joseph Duveen who wanted the marbles to look whiter (Duveen had agreed to make a donation for a new gallery to ho use the marbles), the British Museum went against its preservation policies to hav e the color removed. See Waxman, 247 251.


66 decided to cover it up. This inflamed existing tensions between Britain and Greece, resulting in extensive debate. However, the British Museum summarizes the incid ent as an unfortunate event of the past while continuing to uphold its stature as a global caretaker. The lack of proper museums in Nigeria has been argued as early as the 1940s by Kenneth Murray, considered the father of the museum movement in Nigeria, as early as cannot be as vital as the need for one in Nigeria. In Europe it would chiefly have academic purpose, but in Nigeria it is wanted for the cultural life of t 17 Murray voiced his opinion with respect to the looting of Nigerian art that was taking place at the time. He believed that the absence of a local museum in Nigeria facilitated the removal of valuable art to museums in the West. The first museum in Nigeria, the Jos Museum, was only built in 1952. 18 However, as discussed above, events of theft have continued despite the establishment of museums in Nigeria, and have u nfortunately involved participation by staff members. In addition to cases of art theft, Shyllon states that museums in African states, including Nigeria need a proper system of inventory of their collections. Without proper documentation, prosecuting c ases of restitution are difficult. At the second session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee in 1981, African members of the committee stated that while it is essential for museums to have 17 K. C. Murra y, "Art in Nigeria: The Need for a Museum." Journal of the Royal African Society 41, no. 165 (Oct., 1942): 241. 18 Shyllon, Art and Cultural Heritage 139


67 19 Also, according to a report submitted for the Committee on the Situation in Africa in 1983, the argument of conservation should not be used to solve repatriation claims but should instead be a condition that is created as one aspect of the return process. 20 However, for any museum, including universal museums, preserving an object is one of its primary functions, and if it were to loan an object to a location that poses possible destruction or theft, it would be in violatio be given to the development of policies to protect the collections during armed conflict and other human 21 The need to protect cultural property for the world is an internationalist approach that is almost always embraced by universal museums that are holding the con tested objects. However, one must contemplate the prospect of violating the sovereignty of a singular antiquities may indeed, be well intentioned but can only be viewed loca lly as 19 1978 UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation was formed to facilitate bilateral negotiations regarding property that had been removed a s a result of colonization and military occupation. text of a Lecture delivered to mark the International Museum Day at the Women Development Centre, Abuja on 18 May 2007. < > (accessed March 19, 2010). 20 21 ICOM Code of Ethi cs, 7.


68 22 At the same time, it is recognition of the universal value of cultural treasures that should put an end to the widespread illicit looting of obj ects that are being removed from museums and sites in African countries yet are nevertheless continuing to end up in museums in Europe and the United States. The question of preservation or protection of cultural property is yet another aspect of the divi de between cultural internationalism and nationalism that has not found common ground. According to Shyllon, African states have five options to prosecute cases of restitution in a legal manner which include 1) litigation in foreign courts, 2) the 1970 UNESCO Convention, 3) the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee, 4) bilateral agreements and 5) the arbitration option under the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention. 23 There is a general lack of participation by African countries in acceding to the 1970 UNESCO Conventio n and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention. As of 2010, art rich African countries such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya have not ratified either convention. According to Lyndel Prott, Professor of Cultural Heritage Law at the University of Sydney, Australi a, for many African nations, cultural legislation is not a priority, and there is a lack of communication between different government institutions with regards to maintaining standards to preserve cultural heritage. She also states that many nations may not be aware of the benefits of ratifying international conventions as only a few African lawyers possess a detailed knowledge of the legal aspects of cultural repatriation claims. 24 Shyllon shares similar views. He believes that there may be 22 Barkan, 27 23 Shyllon, Art and Cultural Heritage, 139 142 24 Lyndel V. Prott Schmidt, 33 34


69 difficulties in completing the required forms to be submitted for the request of return, although UNESCO provides assistance on such matters. He also believes that as a result of a general lack of resources and skepticism on the success rate of repatriation claims, m any African nations do not see the point in carrying out the work. Often times, prosecuting claims in foreign countries, even as member states of the 1970 Convention, is a burdensome cost to cover and requires legal professionals, both of which are mostly unavailable in many African states. 25 As discussed earlier, another obstacle for African countries is the lack of systematic inventories of objects in their collection that have been stolen, and Shyllon mentions that many Af rican nations need to do their gro before approaching claims through UNESCO. The lack of evidentiary documentation is often a major hindrance in prosecuting repatriation claims. It is important to remember that both the 1970 UNESCO and 1995 UNIDROIT conventions do not apply retroactively, and only prospectively. 26 Therefore, the conventions largely apply to the objects that are still in their countries of origin but are threatened of danger through the illicit art trade. However, Article 15 of the UNESCO Convention encourage s State Parties to enter into bilateral negotiations regarding property that had been removed prior to the convention. 27 For example, at the tenth session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of 25 Shyllon, Art and Cultural Heritage 141 26 f international law is that treaties are not retroactive and an express provision to this effect is not necessary (there is none in the 1970 UNESCO Convention, which is clearly accepted as non and UNIDROIT : a par tnership against trafficking in cultural The Recovery of Stolen Art: A collection of Essays, ed. N. Palmer, 213. 27 othing in this Convention shall prevent States Parties thereto from concluding special agreements among themselves or from continuing to implement agreements already concluded regarding the restitution of cultural property removed, whatever the reason, fro m its territory of origin,


70 Cultural Property to its Countr ies of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation, initiatives were taken to encourage bilateral negotiations between Greece and Britain regarding the Parthenon Marbles. However, many professionals have begun to doubt the effectiveness of the existing international treaties regarding cultural property. According to Greenfield and Barkan, the UNESCO conventions are too wordy and are written with abstract principles that cannot be applied practically to claims. 28 Moreover, Western states hav e begun to question its political bias and have attacked it for becoming too politicized and anti Western. Also, the language that defines cultural property has been criticized for being too flowery and privy to various interpretations. It has also been c riti cized for not having formal means of tackling cultural property disputes. Greenfield and Shyllon are two among many legal profe ssionals who have advocated the establishment of an international art tribunal or a Court of Arbitration for Cultural Proper ty that would settle disputes in a civilized manner by encouraging of origin, the significance of the property to the claimant country, and the manner in which the proper 29 Such a process of arbitration would appear to be more neutral as it would not operate under a national framework. Therefore, it would seem that although Nigeria has ratified the UNESCO and UNIDROIT convention s, the language and ineffectiveness of the conventions make it rather difficult for state parties to demand the return of t heir cultural property removed 28 Barkan, 17 18, Greenfield, 368 370. 29 Greenfield, 369


71 African n ations need to take greater initiatives to protect their cultural heritage from the current illicit art trade before considering the re turn of cultural treasures acquired during colonial times. For example, Mali is the only African nation that has entered into a bilateral agreement with the United States to apply import restrictions on its cultural archaeological sites. Clearly, Nigeria and other African nations face similar issues, yet have not taken the steps necessary to initiate such agreements to protect their cultural heritage. The current illicit art trade seems to be the largest obstacle that Nigeria faces with regards to its cultural property, and until that subsides, the question of returning the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria from the British Museum may remain unanswered. Conclusion: A Moralist Approach dele jegede has stated that today it is much easier to study African art in the West than in Africa because of the extent of African antiquities that have left the continent through colonial plunder and illicit trafficking 30 But as Thurstan Shaw has observed, original works of art are better understood in the l ocation that gave birth to them. For univ ersal museums to attribute the aim of restitution claim by a source country to nationalism is too simplistic and unfair And as discussed earlier, it is hypocritical for universal museums to use this argument as their own history is tainted with the rise of nationalism in Europe. The mass removal of cultural treasures to the early universal museums in Europe was done as part of a large scale imperialistic venture. In 30 Shyllon, Art and Cultural Heritage 141


72 considering how African nations struggled to achieve their independence as a result of the effects of colonization, universal museums should feel obliged to assist these countries in regaining their cult ural heritage As Peter Schmidt states in Plundering 31 However, as describ ed earlier, there are many obstacles for source countries in Africa in fighting repatriation claims. It would seem highly unlikely for universal museum to repatriate significant cultural treasures to former colonies and as George Abungu has stated, Africa n nations do not seek a mass removal of cultural property from universal museums. In accordance with Article 6 of the ICOM Code of ethics, universal museums need to work in partnership with the communities who hav e lost their cultural property. Currently, universal museums and source countries are holding steadfast to their internationalist and nationalist approaches respectively, with little room for collaboration. Under the current language of cultural property, Nigeria has a small chance of seeing some of the Benin Bronzes within the walls of Nigerian museums. I believe that the argument of repatriation and debating who owns cultural property distracts universal museums and source countries from finding more positive solutions that embrace current museo logical standards upheld by ICOM. Repatriation, the act of transferring ownership from one institution to another, should not be the only way in which source countries could enjoy antiquities that were once removed from their lands. 31


73 A cultural property th eory that best suits resolution between universal museums and source countries is the moralist theory. This theory chooses the honorable path in trying to undo wrongdoings of the past, as well as respects the values of the less t assume that giving a society back its cultural resources will fully compensate them for past wrongful appropriation; rather, the goal is to keep the dominant society from repeating its wrongs. Social justice, rather than full restitution, is the ultimate 32 Two examples of moralist approaches have been made in the United States with the collaboration of museums and private foundations. The first example is the enactment of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in the U nited States in 1990 which required all federal agencies to return Native American objects to their respective people that had been robbed by former colonists. The act also established federal grants to alleviate the repatriation process for both parties. In this case, the preservation of the sanctity of the cultural practices of the Native Americans prevailed over the need to keep a cultural object in the public domain. The second example is the creation of a publicly accessible Nazi Era Provenance Inte rnet Portal ( NEPIP ) in 2003 that allows museums in the United States to document objects in their collection that may have changed hands in Europe between 1932 and 1946. By having this information publicized, the portal provides a standard method of stren gthening provenance research by allowing families that have lost their property as well as researchers to be able to identify their objects. The establishment of NAGPRA and NEPIP has been revolutionary in introducing new methods of negotiation for two ve ry controversial situations. They are both 32 Hutt, 20.


74 wonderful examples that the signatories of the Declaration should follow to find similar solutions for the wider cultural property battle with source countries. NAGPRA and NEPIP have both been successful in esta blishing platforms for negotiation that have benefited both the museum and the rightful owner. Interestingly, although museums have offered to return objects to the rightful owners under the auspices of these two acts, there have been instances where the latter have negotiated with museums to keep their objects on long term loans with the knowledge and understanding that they are better taken care of there. In addition, some owners have agreed for museums to keep their objects with the agreement that they are given due credit when the object is displayed, or by giving significance to the story of how museums have acquired their objects. What Africa ns want is to be able to enjoy their treasures on their soil and to encourage the sustainability of t heir cultural heritage by educating the local community of their culture. Many of the objects that are stored in universal museums, including the Ashanti Gold, Benin Bronzes, and Magdala treasures, hold a lot of power in being able to enlighten Africa of its cultural heritage. I t would seem that the only way in which Africa can enjoy these treasures in the immediate future is through a promise of sharing with universal museums. In the following chapter, I will propose specific methods of collaboration, as alternatives to repatriation, which could be used by universal museums and source countries t hat embody a moralist approach


75 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION Introduction The self declaration of the universal museum in the Declaration on the Importance and Values of Universal Museums and promotion of Enlightenment roots has further entrenched universal museums in a cultural and political debate with source coun tries It has spearheaded a new debate that question s how it app modern and post colonial world, the European Enlightenment is seen as ambivalent, as it has paradoxically been responsible for the pursuit of knowledge and colonialism, leaving universal museums on a con flicted historical path. Therefore, if universal museums are to embrace their Enlightenment history, they cannot ignore their nationalistic ties. Likewise, they should then be more understanding of the need for source countries to re possess their cultur al property in order to re instate their powers as nations. In a conversation with Tom Flynn, the Director of the Manchester Museum, Tristram Bes terman, said the following after returning the human remains of an Australian Aboriginal in 2003: Voltaire, on e of the leading figures of the 18th century Enlightenment, was a great champion of human rights and to represent the Enlightenment purely as seeking after objective truth which was a very important part of it to the exclusion of the rights of man, is, I think, to misrepresent the Enlightenment. I would like to think that were some of the great leaders of the Enlightenment, both in England and in France, around today, they would have been looking on approvingly when I returned that Australian material b ecause of the terrible violence we did to the spiritual rights of those indigenous people. We behaved like colonial bullies and that was not something the Enlightenment was about. To pretend that it is, or was, is a very partial reading of that whole spiri t of taking us out from the Dark Ages. 1 1 Flynn, 19, 20.


76 Eight years following the Declarati on, the universal museum directors have not put forward a coherent method of addressing the claims without using the premise of the Enlightenment model as justi fication for the objects remaining in universal museums. As George Abungu and George Lewis have mentioned, source c ountries are not requesting a mass repatriation of objects from universal museums. What they are seeking is some form of acknowledgement of the historical i njustices that were caused in the past that have resulted in a mass confiscation of a significant part of their cultural heritage. Universal museums do not have the ultimate right to determine that disputed objects acquired during earlier tim es have a g reater purpose in being exhibited within a worldly context. Although this is important, it is time for universal museums to have a renewed global perspective that is relevant to the cultural, political and economic aspects of the twenty first century, and not those of eighteenth century Europe. In considering themselves to be universal institutions, universal museums have the not limited to abstract universal values. In embracing the cultural plurality of the world we live in, universal museums can set new precedents on how museums in general can serve as well regarded universal bodies. As Jeanette Greenfield states in her response to the Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums: The scholarly and curatorial function of museums is international and is are universally constituted or universally accountable. The nature of the objects held and the breadth of their collections, however interesting, do not past is accountability and this alters the context in which objects are held. 2 2 Greenfield 87 88


77 The Declaration clearly d oes not hold universal museums accountable for any cultural damage experienced by many source countries. Instead of encouraging dialogue with source countries the Declaration absolves participating museums of the need for dialogue by calling themselves u niversal. George Abungu, former Director of the National Museums of Kenya, asks why the Declaration only includes museums in Europe and North America, and then asks on what grounds these museums consider themselves to be universal? He refutes the notion of universal museums by stating that 3 has inhibited the tw o parties from finding a collaborative approach. For universal museums to uphold the meaning of universality in the twenty first century, they would need to embrace a moralist approach that embodies new museological standards. They would also need to make a concentrated effort to remove themselves as an authority over the r epresentation of world cultures and find more collaborative methods of engaging with its public, more specifically with the groups or nations who have suffered the loss of their cultural property to enhance their collections. A Moralist Approach: Building Branches of Universal Museums According to Professor Thurstan Shaw, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Ib adan, Nigeria, it would be morally right for museums to retu rn objects to 3 ICOM New s Vol. 57, No. 1, 2004 < 1.pdf >.


78 4 He also suggests an alternative solution to repatriation esta blishing branches of the British Museum in areas of Africa, such as the British Museum in Kumasi, or the British Museum in Benin. 5 This would overcome problems of legal disputes as the objects would be transferred as loans. Such an arrangement would have unprece dented supports this alternative to repatriation The debate of ownership and possession often sets back many claims for repatriation, as museums are unwilling to transfer title of ownership to source countries. He believes that establishing universal museums in Africa could split the role of possessor and owner, with museums in former colonized countries having possession of the objects, and universal museums retaining ownership. However, f or this to succeed, universal museums would need to relinquish their global authoritative control. To continue enforcing an abstract Enlightenment ideal of universalism in presenting objects in a worldly context would not benefit the source communities to day. And as long as universal museums continue to uphold these views without addressing the plight of source countries, the claims for repatriation will continue. U nder this scheme, universal museums could organize long term loans of objects that are of s ignificant cultura l value to a source country. By maintaining a less authoritative stance, universal museums could collaborate with source countries to determine which objects are of estimable cultural and educational value to the local society and what k inds of 4 Greenfield, 109 5 Shyllon, 143


79 exhibitions would truly portray the stories of the African cultures and the objects that g ive a tangible context to them. Housing important cultural treasures in their places of origin would undeniably have an enormous impact on the local populati ons. It would provide the means of on their lost cultural heritage. With the grave situation of the current illicit art trade in Africa as well as the influence of tourism, many indigenous groups have lost the skills that ha ve been passed down from generation to generation as there is more profit in creating objects that cater to the art market and the tourist. I believe that it would also be largely educational for universal museums as well as their branches to tell the sto ry of how objects in Africa were removed to the European empires, and why it was so important for those objects to be displayed in museums in the West. It would also be enlightening for visitors to understand the depths of destruction caused by the curren t illicit trade which has already hampered the continuing preservation of their cultural heritage. In turn, I believe that universal museums would find it easier to acquire new objects that would further scholarly research through such a partnership. Fur ther, I believe that universal museum branches could introduce universally themed exhibitions in source countries. Instead of only displaying objects that are culturally significant to the area, universal museums could u phold their principle of a worldly c ontext in source countries as well. For example, it would be highly informative for source communities to be able to view the influences of African art in the early twentieth century on European artists Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Maurice de


80 Vlaminck, a nd Georges Braque. 6 These types of thematically defined exhibitions would bring a universal objective to objects. Typically, museums in Africa and other developing countries in Asia and Latin America are national institutions that largely embrace nationa listic aims through exhibitions. While this is important, to have exhibitions that show the influences of local art beyond the nation would not only meet the criteria of univers al museum objectives, but also provide local communities with a grea ter underst anding of how the early transit of art has influenced many different cultures of the world. Also, thematically defined exhibitions that demonstrate a connection to the living communities would be more advantageous to African countries, in comparison with the traditional museum setting of separating cultures by galleries. In the recently concluded Museum and Restitution conference organized by the Centre for Museology and t he Manchester Museum at the University of Manchester, Dr. Kokie Agbontaen Eghafona, Professor at the University of Benin, Nigeria, gave a lecture titled conducted in Benin city, Nigeria to understand the views of the local people on museum objects. 7 She found that many local people had not visited the museum. The study reveals that the local people believe that objects in museums are detached from their c ulture, the latter of which is more connected with contemporary versions of historical objects. The decontextualisation of the object from its original location is seen as a disadvantage by the people of Benin City, and they attribute museum objects to th e 6 Christopher Burghard Steiner, African art in transit Cambridge studies in social and cultural anthropology (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 4. 7 Institute for Cultural Practices Blog for Museums and Restitution International Conference, 8 9 July 2010, University of Manchester, UK, < >.


81 1897 British destruction of Benin art. Therefore, creating thematically the med exhibitions that establish a connection with the living community would be imperative. The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. is a prime example of a museum that places a strong emphasis on collaboration with the Native people of North America and e ncourages expression of the contemporary voice. Building universal museums in African countries would also hopefully reduce the number of African objects e ntering the i llicit art market and provide more generous economic prospects for locals to be trained to work in museums. While establishing universal museums in African countries could pose a challenge to the less adequately funded national museum, there is a lot of potential to have collaborative exchanges between universal and national museums. Limitations Although the prospect of building universal museums in source countries has been voiced, the question of funding has not been thoroughly researched. It would seem burdensome and greedy for source countries to expect universal museums to fund such a project Instead, it would be beneficial if universal museums and source countries urged UNESCO to create an international fund through international contr ibutions that would support these proj ects. During the tenth session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation in January 1999, a fund was established to facilitate the return of cultural property to its country of origin. 8 8 UNESCO, Report by the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation on its Activit ies, Paris, September 28, 1999 < > (accessed 3 May 2010), 13.


82 The fund was established to finance training and education projects, and strengthen museum systems. 9 It would be highly advantageous for universal museums and t he governments of source countries to implement a variation of this reco mmendation under the auspice of UNESCO th at would not only alleviate initial financial costs involved to establish a museum but also help source countries to be able to eff ectively run their own museums. However, depending on UNESCO alone for financial support poses a risk because of impeding national political biases. Other means of private financial support should also be sought. The prospect of building branches of universal museu ms in source countries poses other limitations. Firstly, for universal museums to successfully set up their branches in a source country, the political stability of that country would be imperative as the art would need to be in a secure location. Second ly, in many source countries, as well as art market countries in Europe, cultural property belongs to the state and museums are nationalized. Therefore, universal museums and governments of source countries would need to determine the role of the universal museum in a source country would it be privately run or nationalized? Also, how much control would the national government of a source country have over a universal museum branch? Overall, the branch method would need to be approached carefully on a ca se by case basis with a source country. Other Universal Solutions Universal museums can implement other methods that embody moralist universal solutions through collaboration with source countries. The first method is 9 UNESCO In tergovernmental Committee, 13.


83 reuniting parts of objects owned by different museums. So far, this has been established between museums within one country. For example, in 2002, fifteenth century panels from a triptych by Fra Angelico that were owned separately by the J. Paul Getty Mu seum in Los Angeles and the Yale University of Art were reunited. 10 In addition, three decades ago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Louvre reunited the head and torso of a 2100 B.C. neo Sumerian statue, and agreed to take turns displayin g the reassembled piece. To reunite pieces that have been separated to museums in different continents would require the input of cultural and political diplomacy. But this method would also allow museums to share the art instead of considering the prosp ect of losing cultural property through repatriation claims. The second method of establishing a universal solution to the cultural property debate is by digital restitution. This could be in the form of virtual display on the internet or by creating d igital facsimiles of objects in the physical space of the museum. In virtual display of its objects and exhibitions. Museums have begun to create online systems of their colle ctions that would otherwise be hidden. This form of virtual display has connected people from all over the world, and has provided museums with a stronger interactive and educational front. In a recent discussion at the Museum and Restitution Internation al Conference in Manchester, U.K., museum professionals discussed the role of digital restitution and its possibilities as an alternative to physical 10 The New York Times 19 December 2002 < sundered antiquities.html >.


84 repatriation. 11 Could photographs take the place of physical objects for a source community? Can a digita l object convey the same kind of knowledge and meaning that the original object would? Should a digital facsimile be created in the museum of a source country or, should the physical object be returned to a source country with the digital facsimile being c reated in a universal museum? If digital restitution is not perceived well by source countries as an alternative to physical repatriation, it still holds promise in being able to initiate dialogue between museums and source countries. It is a way of engag ing the source communities with museum objects and determining their views on virtual access versus the physical presence of an object. Digital restitution could also be viewed as a method of determining the views of the local communities regarding museum s and cultural property before establishing a universal museum branch in a source country. Conclusion The battle between universal museums and source countries is highly complicated in nature and is interdisciplinary in its engagement of museum, cultural h eritage, legal and political professions. The disputes over cultural property are never ending and until universal museums are able to establish an engaging platform on which to address these concerns that involve the participation of source countries, th institutions remains questionable. Using the Enlightenment model as a defense against claims for repatriation has been shown to be an inadequate response that exploits a complex cultural and political movement. Universal museum s wou ld do well to review 11 Institute for Cultural Practices Blog for Museums and Restitution Internation al Conference, < and restitution digital visual and knowledge repat riation ii/ >.


85 their policies in the Declaration and consider changing its authoritative and one sided approach. Although acquiring antiquities during colonization occurred under very different cultural and political precedents, it is largely ackno wledged that these museums have a moral obligation to return objects to their country of origin. In the case that repatriation does not tak e place, universal museums have the unparalleled opportunity of being able to explore universal values by sharing the ir collection with source countries through building branches of th eir museums in source countries. By sharing significant objects with the descendants of the artist cultures who have lost a significant proportion of their cultural heritage, universal muse ums have the opportunity to create stronger


86 APPENDIX DECLARATION ON THE I MPORTANCE AND VALUE OF UNIVERSAL MUSEUMS Statement on the Value of the Universal M useum Media Release British Museum December 2002 Eighteen of the world's great museums and galleries have signed a statement supporting the idea of the universal museum. The statement was drafted at their last meeting in Munich last October, and presented to the British Museum for publication. Their directors are all members of an informal group of museums worldwide which meets regularly to discuss issues of common interest. One of the most pressing of these is the threat to th e integrity of universal collections posed by demands for the restitution of objects to their countries of origin. Museums and galleries such as these are cultural achievements in their own right. They bring together the different cultural traditions of hu manity under one roof. Through their special exhibitions and their permanent displays they endow the great individual pieces in their collections with a worldwide context within which their full significance is graspable as nowhere else. Neil MacGregor, Di rector of the British Museum, said "This declaration is an unprecedented statement of common value and purpose issued by the directors of some of the world's leading museums and galleries. The diminishing of collections such as these would be a great loss to the world's cultural heritage." Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums The international museum community shares the conviction that illegal traffic in archaeological, artistic, and ethnic objects must be firmly discouraged. We s hould, however, recognize that objects acquired in earlier times must be viewed in the light of different sensitivities and values, reflective of that earlier era. The objects and monumental works that were installed decades and even centuries ago in museu ms throughout Europe and America were acquired under conditions that are not comparable with current ones. Over time, objects so acquired whether by purchase, gift, or partage have become part of the museums that have cared for them, and by extension part of the heritage of the nations which house them. Today we are especially sensitive to the museums too provide a valid and valuable context for objects that were long ago


87 displaced from their original source. The universal admiration for ancient civilizations would not be so deeply established today were it not for the influence exercised by the artifacts of these cultures, widely available to an international public in major museums. Indeed, the sculpture of classical Greece, to take but one example, is an excellent illustration of this point and of the importance of public collecting. The centuries long history of appreciation of Greek art began in antiquity, was renew ed in Renaissance Italy, and subsequently spread through the rest of Europe and to the Americas. Its accession into the collections of public museums throughout the world marked the significance of Greek sculpture for mankind as a whole and its enduring va lue for the contemporary world. Moreover, the distinctly Greek aesthetic of these works appears all the more strongly as the result of their being seen and studied in direct proximity to products of other great civilizations. Calls to repatriate objects that have belonged to museum collections for many years have become an important issue for museums. Although each case has to be judged individually, we should acknowledge that museums serve not just the citizens of one nation but the people of every natio n. Museums are agents in the development of culture, whose mission is to foster knowledge by a continuous process of reinterpretation. Each object contributes to that process. To narrow the focus of museums whose collections are diverse and multifaceted wo uld therefore be a disservice to all visitors. Signed by the Directors of: The Art Institute of Chicago; Bavarian State Museum, Munich (Alte Pinakothek, Neue Pinakothek); State Museums, Berlin; Cleveland Museum of Art; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; S olomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Louvre Museum, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence; Philadelphi a Museum of Art; Prado Museum, Madrid; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; Thyssen Bornemisza Museum, Madrid; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The British Museum, London


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93 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Dushanthi Jayawardena is from Sri Lanka and has lived in Libya, Brunei, Bahrain, Sri Lanka and the United States. Sh e earned a Bachelor of Arts in art h istory from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland in 2004. To pursue her interest in museums and cultural heritage, she interned at the Bahrain National Museum for two y ears. During her graduate studies at the University of Florida, she has worked at the University Galleries currently works as a Registration Assistant at the Harn Museu m of Art. She hopes to return to Sri Lanka to engage in cultural heritage projects.