January 7, 2009

More Aboriginal remains to be returned by UK

Posted at 2:46 pm in Similar cases

Yet another return of human remains from a UK museum to an Australian aboriginal community. A sign that where there is a will to do so, Museums & other institutions are able to see the requirement to return artefacts to their original owners.

Sydney Morning Herald

UK to return more Aboriginal remains
January 7, 2009 – 6:52PM

Another set of Aboriginal remains held at a British museum for almost a century are to be returned to Australia.

Two skulls and two thigh bones kept by the Booth Museum of Natural History, in Brighton, East Sussex, are expected to be repatriated within days.

The remains are the latest in a series being returned under an agreement struck between the British and Australian governments in 2005.

In December, it was confirmed that three Aboriginal skulls taken to Oxford University in 1860 would be brought home, and in July last year, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter returned four skulls to the Ngarrindjeri people.

Brett Galt-Smith, executive program officer for the Australian Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination, visited Brighton as part of an assessment of indigenous Australian remains in Britain’s museums.

Research on the four specimens held at Brighton began last year and a detailed scientific analysis, paid for by the Australian High Commission, was carried out by the Museum of London.

The tests confirmed that the two skulls were of Aboriginal ancestry.

Further tests are to be carried out on a water vessel made from a skull that could also be of Aboriginal origin and may also be returned.

“The two skulls and two thigh bones at the Booth Museum of Natural History were donated almost 100 years ago,” Brighton and Hove city councillor David Smith, said.

“Aboriginal remains found their way into several UK museums in the 19th and early 20th centuries, including the Natural History Museum in London.

“In the 21st century we understand more about the cultural, religious and social significance of these remains to the Aboriginal people and in certain circumstances the right thing to do is return them to their homeland.

“We have a clear policy and follow national guidelines for looking after, researching and assessing requests for the return of such items.”

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has welcomed the repatriations and said the Rudd government is committed to ensuring all indigenous remains held overseas are returned to Australia.

© 2009 AAP

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  1. DR.KWAME OPOKU said,

    01.25.09 at 7:41 pm

    It is gratifying to note that even in Britain institutions are finally coming to the conclusion that it is wrong to keep the skulls and bones of others and to pretend that one has a right to the parts of a human being. Hopefully these institutions can extend their deliberations to stolen cultural property of others and realize that holding on to looted or stolen cultural objects is equally morally reprehensible and illegal,not to mention the sacrilege involved in such terrible acts.

    Dr.Kwame Opoku.

  2. Vic said,

    01.31.09 at 11:25 am

    Interesting article. I never looked at museums in that light. Thanks.

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