September 15, 2006

Has the British Museum “set the standard” for restitution?

Posted at 1:20 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Following on from comments about the lack of cooperation from the Natural History Museum, the British Museum is now being praised by Aboriginal groups as having set the standard for repatriation.
It is a shame that the British Museum currently refuses to consider that other instances could also be seen as special cases in addition to those which involve human remains (& possibly in the near future, those which involve Nazi loot).

SBS news (Australia)

Tasmanian ash bundles returned
15.9.2006. 17:13:34

Tasmania’s last two surviving Aboriginal cremation ash bundles have been returned to the state after more than a century in London’s British Museum.

The return of the artefacts is being hailed as a victory for the repatriation of human remains from overseas museums.

Tasmania’s Aboriginal community has welcomed home the bundles, brought by two young representatives from London.

Delegates Adam Thompson and Leah Brown presented the bundles in a private Aboriginal ceremony at Risdon Cove in Hobart.

Mr Thompson said it was “an emotional moment”. “It’s a big thing for Tasmanian Aboriginal people,” he said.

The bundles, made from animal skin and containing ash gathered from a human cremation site, were acquired around 1838 by Christian missionary George Augustus Robinson.

Their return follows the introduction this year of the British Human Tissue Act, which gave museums permission to repatriate remains for the first time.

The victory has steeled the community’s resolve to repatriate “hundreds” more remains being held in museums throughout the world.

“The British Museum has set a standard,” Mr Thompson said. “They made a moral decision to return the remains and we’re hoping that that’s going to put pressure on other museums to do the same.”

Meanwhile Britain’s Natural History Museum appears reluctant to return its collection of human remains despite negotiations with the delegation earlier this week.

Mr Thompson said he would continue to fight the museum for the return of ancestors’ remains.


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