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Current issue: Repatriation

The repatriation of art objects has been a controversial topic since the past that includes museums, galleries and in some cases even the court. These three subjects are involved depending who has the main object, who requests the repatriation, and in case, the court is the only solution if the subject who has the object does not want to return it. According to the NAGPRA (The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act), which is well known because it has a great program that leads to the repatriation process, the meaning of this term is “the transfer of physical custody of and legal interest in cultural items. ”

However, Museums from different countries do not cooperate together to get a solution and this became an international and current issue because according to Andrew McClellan, professor and museum studies advisor mentioned that “repatriation problems mostly concern demands from former colonies that now want to control their cultural patrimony. “(569). That being said, cultural patrimony is an object having ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Native American group or culture itself. (NAGPRA). What caused this problem are the colonies, countries or museums consider that having a cultural object that is not in its original place is well known as a theft, which some museums agree with it, but others don’t.

According to George Abungu, Former General Director of the National Museums of Kenya, explains in his article The Declaration: A Contested Issue that artifacts that are installed now in museums were stolen, acquired through conquest and others were brought to the museums for some research but never returned (02). This is supported by an example of the World War II, where art pieces were taken by the Nazis as a consequence when they invaded Europe. (Schuster 02)

Also, “These artifacts are the foundation of a potential tourist trade. Cultural and historical tourism is an important source for many countries” (Tharoor). For instance, the case between The Government of Peru and Yale University was a good example of repatriation and dialogue because after years talking about this cross-cultural exchange, in 2010 Yale agreed to return the artifacts, and in that time, the president Alan García created a joint study and research with the help of Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco.

I do believe objects should be returned regardless of circumstances. No matter if they were taken legally or illegally, if the country in possession of the objects has proven that they can properly care for, protect, and display the objects, antiquities should be returned because according to Jason Farago in his article published by BBC argues that “Objects have a unique connection with the place where they were produced and are an essential part of the cultural history of that area.” As well as tourists can better appreciate a historical artifact in its historical context.