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Watch the "Repatriation of Museum Objects" Webinar Recording

October 23, 2020

Moderated by Esra Akcan

Held on October 19th, 2020, this panel was organized to bring together museum directors, curators, architects, and scholars to comment on the recent discussions on repatriation and restitution as a form of reparation to colonized and looted lands. Over 500 participants attended from 52 different countries.

While museums in Europe and North America have occasionally returned objects to their native communities or lands of arrival, the issue of repatriation gained an accelerated epistemological and ethical momentum at the end of 2018. What is the responsibility of museums to objects taken into their collections by violence or deceit during the colonial times or wars? What is the role of museum-object-repatriation in the recognition of colonial and military violence? What are the legal structures that prohibit or allow deaccession in the museums of different countries? Once the objects are parted from their communities and no longer serve their original sacred functions, where are they to be returned? What determines how far back museums consider repatriation claims legitimate and why? What is the future of “universal museums” around the world?" 

Speakers each made a 15-minute presentation, commenting on the contemporary debates from the perspectives of their own work and study area. A question and answer session followed the presentations.

Souleymane Bachir Diagne | Columbia University | New York
Jonathan Fine | Humboldt Forum | Berlin
Cecile Fromont | Yale University | New Haven

Esra Akcan | Cornell University | Ithaca

Additional Information


  • Critical Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Studies
  • Migrations