- Elginism - http://www.elginism.com -

British Museum returns artefacts to their country of origin – temporarily

The British Musuem is loaning various artefacts to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. The artefacts were taken by Captain Cook while he was exploring Australia.

Various Aboriginal groups want the items returned permanently though [1].

One thing that loans such as this do prove, is that even though the British Museum insists that the artefacts are better located in the British Museum, there is a tacit acknowledgement that there is a significance to exhibiting them in their country of origin, even if it is only temporary. If Australian artefacts can return in this way, then why can’t they make a similar loan of the Parthenon Marbles?

Aboriginal bark painting of a barramundi dating from 1861 [2]

Aboriginal bark painting of a barramundi dating from 1861

ABC News (Australia) [3]

Indigenous artefacts collected by Captain Cook set to return for exhibit in Australia
Updated February 26, 2015 19:11:43

The National Museum of Australia (NMA) in Canberra says a controversial exhibition will see Indigenous souvenirs collected by Captain James Cook return to Australia for the first time in 245 years.

The British Museum in London will loan 150 Indigenous exhibits for display, including the shield and spears thought to be taken by Captain Cook from Botany Bay in 1770.

Microscopic examination suggested the hole in the centre of the shield has been made by a sharp implement, such as a spear.

NMA Indigenous Advisory Committee chair Peter Yu said it was a watershed meeting between cultures and the new Encounters exhibition could open old wounds.

“There’s no discounting the fact that it’ll be an emotional event,” he said.

“I think it’ll be very emotional and I think that there will be some people will be upset about that.”

But Mr Yu said the museum had consulted widely with Indigenous groups about having the artefacts back in Australia.

“I don’t think we should shy away from it,” he said.

“This exhibition provides the opportunity for that dialogue to be had.

“There are issues dealing with historical grievances.

“There are legal complexities and we have to deal with it very carefully.”

NMA director Matt Trinca said the artefacts were immensely important for Aboriginal Australians.

“[The artefacts] emerge from a history that lies at the epicentre of our national story,” he said.

“That’s a story that all Australians are interested in.

“This exhibition will encourage people to consider their past and consider their relationship to the past in what I hope are new and productive ways.”

Mr Trinca said it was important to give people the opportunity to see the objects on display.

“The alternative was to leave them in a vault in London,” he said.

“I’m immensely proud of the work we’ve done and of the opportunity this affords for a discussion I think will be important for us as a nation.”

Mr Trinca said he hoped the exhibition would be the beginning of a new relationship between Australian and British museums.

“This first-ever collaboration with the British Museum will bring three major exhibitions to Australian audiences, starting with Encounters,” he said.

As part of the cultural swap, the NMA will sending an Indigenous artwork, called Yumari, to the British Museum, which will form part of an upcoming exhibition in London.

The Encounters exhibition will be on display at the NMA from November.