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Chronicles of Mann to remain victims of anti-deaccessioning laws

The anti-deaccessioning laws [1] that govern the British Museum & many of Britain’s other national museums & galleries are a consistent source of frustration for those pursuing restitution claims. Despite some loosening of the laws [2] & other proposed changes [3], the regulations set out in the Acts of Parliament that govern these institutions stop most restitution claims from ever being properly considered.

The usual answer given is that whether or not they (the institution in question) wanted to return the artefacts, the law would not let them do so. This always seems like a bit of a smoke screen though – it is rare to see them suggesting that these laws are changed & one wonders what the next excuse would be once this barrier would be removed. On the other hand, as public opinion has shifted, the return of human remains [4] has become a relatively accepted practise.

The case discussed below is also interesting, as it is a nominally intranational case in the same was as the Lindisfarne Gospels & the Lewis Chessmen.

Iomtoday [5]

Published Date: 23 October 2008
Chronicles won’t be coming home

ONE of the most important Manx historical documents will remain in the ownership of the British Library for the forseeable future, Chief Minister Tony Brown announced in Tynwald this week.
Enquiries had been made by the Manx government about the Chronicles of Mann being returned to the Island but hope was dashed because the British Library is legally obliged to keep its artefacts.

‘The ultimate aim was to have the Chronicles of Mann returned to the Isle of Man,’ Mr Brown said.

‘I am happy to confirm that the Chronicles of Mann are regarded as possibly the most important documents in the history of the Isle of Man.

‘The ownership is with the British Library and it is forbidden from disposing of any items in its collection. Even loaning the documents long-term would be against its brief.’

Mr Brown said the British Library had reaffirmed it could not transfer the documents to the Isle of Man on a permanent basis but was happy to consider short-term loans any time in the future.

Responding to a question from Bill Henderson (Douglas North) Mr Brown said future displays like the one recently in the Manx Museum would be arranged so future generations could see the documents.

Citing the policy famously adopted by the British Government with other artefacts, notably the Elgin Marbles, Mr Brown added: ‘I do not believe pursuing this matter will serve any useful purpose.’