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Manchester Museum Returns Ceremonial and Secret Sacred Material Back to Traditional Custodians

This article was first published on the Manchester Museum website https://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/about/repatriation/

Manchester Museum, part of The University of Manchester, and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) are pleased to announce the unconditional repatriation of 43 secret sacred and ceremonial objects to the Aranda people of Central Australia, Gangalidda Garawa peoples’ of northwest Queensland, Nyamal people of the Pilbara and Yawuru people of Broome.

Manchester Museum has been responsible for some of the material since the 1920s and has been active in returning ancestral remains to their communities of origin since 2003, however, this marks the museum’s first return of secret sacred and/or ceremonial material to Australia.

AIATSIS CEO Mr Craig Ritchie welcomes the decision made by Manchester Museum, acknowledging its significance not only for the Aboriginal peoples whose items are coming home but also for Australia more broadly.

“We congratulate Manchester Museum for their commitment to recognising the importance of repatriation for all Australians, which promotes healing and reconciliation, and ultimately fosters truth-telling about our Nation’s history,” Mr Ritchie said.

Esme Ward, Director of Manchester Museum, said “By taking this action Manchester Museum will become more inclusive, caring and relevant to the communities it serves both locally and globally. Our work with AIATSIS to promote understanding between cultures, learn together and build new relationships for the future has never been more important or timely.  We look forward to working with other museums to strengthen trust with source communities globally, work collaboratively, encourage open conversations about the future of collections and critically, take action.”

Professor Nalin Thakkar, Vice-President for Social Responsibility at The University of Manchester, said “This is excellent news and demonstrates that The University of Manchester, and our cultural assets like Manchester Museum, are committed to social responsibility, not just at local or region level, but on an international scale.

“Our students will be the next generation of global citizens making changes in the world and actions such as these set a really positive example for them to emulate.”

In late November, the first of two formal handover ceremonies will take place at Manchester Museum with delegates from Gangalidda Garawa, Nyamal and AIATSIS.

“The repatriation of our sacred cultural heritage items is a fundamental part of the healing and reconciliation process, both within our communities and between our mob and the Government,” Mangubadijarri Yanner, Representative for the Gangalidda Garawa Native Title Aboriginal Corporation said. “Bringing these sacred cultural heritage items back to Country is important and necessary for the purpose of cultural revitalisation – because locked deep within these items is our lore; our histories, our traditions and our stories.”

The return marks the first repatriation from the United Kingdom for the Return of Cultural Heritage project being led by AIATSIS, and the second to occur after the recent announcement of 42 objects to be returned from the United States of America.

Find out more about the Return of Cultural Heritage project

ICOM-CC Call for Posters

ICOM-CC 19th Triennial Conference

Beijing, China

September 14–18, 2020

Theme: Transcending Boundaries: Integrated Approaches to Conservation.
ICOM-CC is inviting abstracts for poster contributions for its 19th Triennial Conference.
Posters may address the aims and triennial programs of the ICOM-CC Working Groups and/or the conference theme. For information about the Working Groups, please consult the ICOM-CC website: www.icom-cc.org. For information about the conference and its theme, go to https://www.icom-cc2020.org/.
Poster presentation is particularly well suited to material with a strong visual impact. Work submitted must be original and must not have been published elsewhere or be under consideration by another publication. Poster abstracts will be published in the conference Preprints.
All contributions must be submitted in English. At least one author of each selected poster must be present at the conference to discuss the work. Last date for author registration will be communicated upon acceptance of the poster.
Abstracts for posters must be submitted via the conference website https://www.icom-cc2020.org/preprints.aspx.
If you do not already have an author account, you will be asked to create one.
The deadline for receipt of abstracts for posters is November 15, 2019.  
Poster guidelines and template can be downloaded here.

Dinosaur display that brought Chinese fossils to Nottingham wins heritage award

This article was first published in the West Bridgford Wire online https://westbridgfordwire.com/dinosaur-display-that-brought-chinese-fossils-to-nottingham-wins-heritage-award/

A world-exclusive exhibition that brought Chinese dinosaurs to the city of Nottingham has won an ‘excellence in exhibitions’ award.

The Dinosaurs of China exhibition developed by Nottingham City Council Museums Service working with the University of Nottingham received the Judges’ Special Award at the Regional Heritage Awards 2019.

In 2017, more than 130,000 people visited the four-month display to see the rare skeletons and fossils never-before seen outside of Asia, which came about from pioneering research by Dr Wang Qi, an Assistant Professor in Architecture at the University of Nottingham.

Dinosaurs of China brought to life the story of how dinosaurs evolved into the birds that live alongside us today, adopting a new narrative-led approach to the design of a museum, informed by Dr Wang Qi’s research, instead of a traditionally chronological layout.

Based on Dr Wang Qi’s work, Nottingham’s Museum Service focused on curating the exhibition to make it accessible and engaging to the general public. The exhibition drew visitors from Europe and beyond, with 75 schools visiting and taking part in activities designed to inspire an interest in science and scientific research. The accompanying engagement programme, which included science lectures and Q&A sessions, saw 28,000 people take part.

Councillor Dave Trimble – Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Localities;

“This was an amazing exhibition which brought many skeletons and fossils to UK and Europe for the first time. The centre piece of the exhibition being the magnificent Mamenchisaurus which was the tallest skeleton ever displayed in the UK. The development of the exhibition took a massive amount of work and collaboration which was rewarded with large number of visitors how came to see this exhibition in Nottingham.”

Jason Feehily, Director of Knowledge Exchange Asia at the University of Nottingham, said:

“The Dinosaurs of China is a wonderful example of collaborative working with Nottingham City Museums Service, Lakeside Arts, the Asia Business Centre, Nottingham Confucius Institute and our China partners the Beijing Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology; and the Long Hao Institute of Geology and Palaeontology. Dinosaurs of China is a success story for our city, raising Nottingham’s profile and enhancing the local tourism economy.”

The Regional Heritage Awards celebrate the extraordinary and excellent work that is taking place in heritage organisations throughout the East Midlands.

The awards were judged by Dr Abi Hunt, Head of Department (Marketing and Tourism) at the University of Lincoln; Chris Keady, Head of Collections, Learning and Participation and Interim Museum Manager at Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust and Katt Hanson, a Masters student on the Museum and Heritage Development course at Nottingham Trent University.


Government announces four additional ports and airports for movement of CITES-protected species after Brexit

DEFRA had previously issued guidance to help minimise disruption in the movement of CITES-protected animal and plant species and their parts once the UK leaves the EU.

It has been announced that four additional ports and airports will be designated for use by individuals and businesses to move CITES specimens between the UK and the EU.

This means that in total there will be 29 CITES points of entry and exit (PoE) in the UK after Brexit. The four additional PoE for CITES items announced are Eurotunnel, Dover, Holyhead, and Belfast Seaport.

Further information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/trading-and-moving-endangered-species-protected-by-cites-if-theres-no-withdrawal-deal

ICOM UK – British Council Travel Grant Scheme – 14 Oct deadline for applications

The deadline for applications for the 2019-20 ICOM UK – British Council Travel Grant Scheme is 09:00 on Monday 14 October 2019.

ICOM UK, with support from the British Council, is pleased to offer travel grants to support UK organisations seeking to build reciprocally beneficial international projects and partnerships.

The 2019-20 ICOM UK – British Council Travel Grant Scheme will enable recipients to undertake an international visit to meet with colleagues and share skills, expertise and experience.  The Travel Grant Scheme supports museums who are starting to develop mutually beneficial international projects and partnerships.

Applications will be considered for grants up to £1,500 per organisation or consortium for visits beyond greater Europe and up to £700 for visits within greater Europe.  The total amount of funding available for 2019-20 is £28,500.

The grant will cover the cost of travel, including international and local transport, visas, accommodation and subsistence.

Case Studies from previous grant recipients can be read on the ICOM UK website http://uk.icom.museum/resources/case-studies/



Deadline for applications: 09:00 Monday 14 October 2019

Successful applicants notified: w/c 28 October 2019

Travel must be completed by: 30 June 2020


The eligibility criteria, guidelines and application form are available on the ICOM UK website at http://uk.icom.museum/about-us/bursaries/

UK Government has published sector specific Brexit guidance

The UK Government has just published sector-specific Brexit guidance.

There is a 10 point checklist to understand what you need to do to prepare for a no-deal Brexit if you work in the arts, culture or heritage sector.

Click on each of the links below for further information.

Preparing for no-deal Brexit if you work in arts, culture or heritage

Preparing for no-deal Brexit if you work in tourism

Touring Europe if there’s no Brexit deal


Here is a summary of the 10 steps:

  1. Check what you need to do if you are taking a touring group to the EU temporarily.
  2. Check what customs procedures you need to follow to take creative and cultural goods in and out of the EU for business.
  3. Read the guidance: Visiting Europe after Brexit
  4. Check if your employees need a visa or work permit and meet any requirements for their profession to work in the country they are going to.
  5. Ask your employees to check if they need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
  6. Check if you need to change the way you access personal data from the EU/EEA.
  7. If you provide arts, cultural or heritage services to organisations or individuals based in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland after Brexit, read this guidance to see what additional steps you may need to take.
  8. Get an EORI number that starts with GB to move your goods into or out of the EU.
  9. Check if you need a licence to export cultural objects.
  10. Check what you need to do if you currently receive EU funding.

There is detailed information on each of these steps on the gov.uk website.

Why ICOM postponed the vote on its new museum definition

Written by Tonya Nelson, Chair of ICOM UK for Issue 119/10 of Museums Journal, 1 October 2019

This article was first published in the Museums Association’s Museum Journal https://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-journal/comment/01102019-definition-just-start-of-conversation?utm_campaign=1589354_04102019&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Museums%20Association&dm_i=2VBX,Y2CQ,27LJTU,3KINR,1

At the Extraordinary General Assembly of the 25th ICOM Triennial Conference in Kyoto on 7 September, the national and international committees agreed to postpone the vote on the proposed new museum definition. This was an anti-climactic end to six weeks of intense debate, but I believe the right outcome.

A vote would have cemented a Brexit-like rift in the global community. With a better understanding of the potential impact of the proposed definition on colleagues from around the world, we can now consider the best outcome from our own standpoint, as well as from that of the international museum sector.

Support for the new definition is greater than one might think based on press reports and social media. Many ICOM colleagues have argued that the proposed definition reflects what museums are already doing and, more importantly, what museums need to do to be relevant now and in the future.

Furthermore, colleagues in emerging economies pointed out that the current Icom definition is too narrow to encompass the work they are doing to grow their sectors – they may not have “permanent institutions” but they are adapting “spaces” in order to preserve and present tangible and intangible heritage. They also report mixing what we might call pure museum work with other types of community building. Thus, the proposed definition offers crucial validation for their efforts and gives extra weight to their advocacy.

On the other hand, some members have serious pragmatic reasons for opposing the new definition. In countries in which the Icom definition is embedded in national legislation, members expressed great concern about how their governments would react to the proposed definition.

They argue that politicians and policy makers simply won’t understand it. Even worse, they believe an overly broad definition, straying too far from commonly understood museum functions, could result in government funding being given to organisations that fall outside of the intended scope of ICOM’s membership.

Terminology and syntax were the core issues raised by western European colleagues, including our UK members. The absence of words such as “education” and “intangible” and the inclusion of words such as “polyphonic” were cited. I think “polyphonic” should be changed to “many voices”, if we want to be seen as accessible and inclusive.

There was also a general sense that the English-language version of the definition was awkwardly written, and many argued that the “definition” sounded more like a mission statement or political manifesto. However, even the opposition group led by France made clear a new definition is needed. At least we have consensus on one thing.

I recount this to demonstrate the challenge of developing a definition that is useful and relevant to a global museum sector that is growing and changing rapidly. As ICOM UK members consistently say they value being part of and supporting an international museum community, I want to continue the conversation about the new definition with our national interests in mind, as well as the needs of international colleagues. We should ensure the definition protects and supports those from the most fragile parts of the sector.

I appreciate ICOM for having the courage to propose a radically different definition. It has sparked the most passionate and engaged debate I have experienced as an ICOM member. We now have an opportunity to harness this energy and work constructively to come to a resolution.

To that end, ICOM UK is establishing a member-led working group that will be empowered to continue the dialogue with UK stakeholders and engage with the ICOM international community. My hope is that we can turn a tumultuous six weeks into a positive new beginning.

Across Europe, Museums Rethink What To Do With Their African Art Collections

This article was first published by NPR online https://www.npr.org/2019/08/12/750549303/across-europe-museums-rethink-what-to-do-with-their-african-art-collections?t=1566912348632

Early in the movie Black Panther, a black visitor played by Michael B. Jordan confronts a white curator over African artifacts in a fictional British museum.

“How do you think your ancestors got these?” the visitor asks. “You think they paid a fair price? Or did they take it — like they took everything else?”

The visitor turns out to be the villain of the movie. But a similar (if less ultimately violent) discussion is happening in museums around the world over the volume of African art in their collections. Officials in Germany and The Netherlands have announced plans to return art and artifacts taken from Africa during the colonial period. And more museum staff are meeting on the topic across Europe.

In 2006, France’s Quai Branly museum lent a set of wooden statues and carved furniture to the country of Benin. Originally seized from the region by a French military expedition in 1892, they were housed in a Beninese museum called the Fondation Zinsou.

Marie-Cécile Zinsou, founder of the museum, says people lined up for 3 to 4 hours, and that visitors to the exhibition left lots of messages of gratitude in the visitors’ book.

But they also wondered: “Why do these objects have to go back in France, exactly?” Zinsou says. “People were really saying, ‘Do you think we could have them back for real, soon?'”

According to the most commonly cited figures from a 2007 UNESCO forum, 90% to 95% of sub-Saharan cultural artifacts are housed outside Africa. Many, like the works from Benin, were taken during the colonial period and ended up in museums across Europe and North America.

At the Africa Museum in Belgium, director Guido Gryseels says 85 percent of the museum’s collection comes from the Congo — the site of Belgium’s former colony in Central Africa.

“Some were brought by missionaries,” Gryseels says. “Others were brought by civil servants … also, some were resulting from military expeditions and sometimes even from plundering.”

For decades, Congolese leaders have asked for these objects to be returned. Most of their requests, and those by African countries to other museums, have been refused — with some exceptions, particularly for human remains.

But recent events in Europe have raised the possibility of repatriations at a much larger scale. In addition to the plans announced in Germany, last year French President Emmanuel Macron commissioned a study of how much African art French museums are holding and to make recommendations about what to do with it.

Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr is one of the study’s authors. “The problem is you can’t lend people an object that fundamentally belongs to them,” he says.

The study recommended the return of a wide range of objects taken during the colonial period by force — or where there’s simply no documentation of consent. The report got mixed reviews in France, where Sarr estimates there are at least 90,000 African items in museums.

The vast majority are in just one, the state-owned Quai Branly in Paris. Its director, Stéphane Martin, said in an interview with radio station Europe 1 that restitution shouldn’t be a dirty word,but that the report was too drastic: “Museums should not be the hostages of the unhappy history of colonialism,” he said.

The wrangling over where art comes from and where it belongs isn’t new. The most famous example is Greece’s longstanding dispute with the British Museum over what the British call the Elgin marbles: sculptures from the Parthenon that have been at the London museum for almost 200 years.

Alexander Herman of the Institute of Art and Law in the U.K. says that in 2002, a group of directors from major international museums issued a general declaration on the topic of restitution. He characterized it as “claiming we shouldn’t just be kowtowing to these claimant countries and giving everything back, and things need to be shared with a world audience, and we’re the best places where this can happen.”

That sentiment still lingers, he says — the Elgin marbles are still in the British Museum – but he does think that other fronts may be more open. For his part, Guido Gryseels of the Africa Museum in Belgium acknowledges that attitudes are changing.

“We are fully aware that it’s not normal that such a large part of the African cultural heritage is in Europe or in Western museums,” he says.

Gryssels says he’s in discussion with his counterpart in the Congo to return works.

In France, some press coverage has suggested returns could leave vacant shelves in French museums. Cécile Fromont, a French historian of Central African art, says that’s not going to happen. One way of thinking about it, she says, is that more African art can go on display.

“We are talking about hundreds of thousands of objects,” Fromont says. “As somebody who wants to champion the display and study of the expressive art of the African continent, if we can get more objects on view — in more settings, in more museums, in more places around the world — that sounds like a great solution.”

For now, those wooden objects from Benin are back at the Quai Branly. With a loan from the French Development Agency, Benin is constructing a new museumto receive them, set to open in 2021.

In July, the French Minister of Culture Franck Riester said the government was prepared to send them on loan to Benin even sooner. But it will take an act of the French Parliament to release them from the Quai Branly’s collection definitively — and another law to allow for wider, permanent returns.

Doctors Can Now Give Out Prescriptions for a Visit to the Museum

This article was first published in FORTUNE. 

No one likes going to a pharmacy to fill a prescription, but filling one at a fine arts museum is an entirely different proposition. Launching its partnership with the Médecins Francophones du Canada (MFdC) last November, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) has filled 185 prescriptions, each one granting up to two adults and two children admission to peruse its collections of old and new masters, visit an exhibition, or join a guided tour. The art antidote is already popular enough that at least one person has presented a doctor’s handwritten chicken scratch to ticket agents.

Physicians who participate in the MMFA-MFdC Museum Prescriptions program are given an official pad of 50 slips, which they can prescribe or refill at their own discretion. According to resident art therapist Stephen Legari—the first appointed full-time to a museum in North America—art can be a supplemental remedy for a host of ailments, from mental health disorders (such as depression or anxiety) to Alzheimer’s disease to cardiac arrhythmia. Art for heart’s sake, if you will. Or perhaps a family caring for a unwell child could benefit from some visual therapy. “These people are heroes,” says Legari. “Maybe they need a day off.”

After handing over the prescription at the museum, patients become patrons who are free to be revitalized through art and reflection. “Hopefully they’re also going to find that on a Saturday we have free activities for families, or on a Sunday we have the Art Hive, a social studio for mixed population, drop-in style, free to the public twice a week,” Legari says. On Thursdays, people over the age of 65 can take advantage of free access to the museum’s collections and various workshops in the Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy, one of the largest purpose-built spaces of its kind in the world.

Before the program launched, the MFdC invited Legari to its annual conference to exhibit works created in art therapy sessions. As these compositions are guarded under confidentiality, Legari put a call out through the Centre of Excellence on Partnership with Patients and the Public (CEPPP) for participants willing to make something explicitly for the exhibition. The invitation struck a personal chord with Marie-France Langlet, one of the eight patients and caregivers to respond, many of whom had been affected by cancer. In 2004, her then 9-year-old son got a diagnosis of acute nonlymphocytic leukemia. When he relapsed after several rounds of chemotherapy, she took him to see a therapist, who asked him to draw a picture of what being cured would look like to him.

His pencil-crayon drawing depicts a grassy plane with a solitary flower in full bloom. “The minuscule flower in his drawing was obviously him with his curly hair,” says Langlet. Above it, two blue clouds have released a neat pattern of raindrops that dangle above a teeming, six-colored rainbow. “We worked with this rainbow and these colors all along the treatment,” she explains. The red color, she would tell him, represented the chemo that would be good for his blood. Blue was for the treatment that would help his lungs. “So for me, art was something that meant something to a patient, especially a child.”

Langlet’s son was declared cancer-free in 2013, and since then she’s worked as a patient partner with Sainte-Justine Hospital, CEPPP, and other initiatives. “I saw this opportunity with the museum as a continuous improvement exercise to become an even better patient partner,” she explains. With the other participants, she attended sessions based around a theme of contrasts that began with a guided tour and led to reflection and creation. In one of the workshops, Langlet painted a mask black and covered it with opposing words. “I’ve been through so many contradictory feelings from hope to despair, and even that freaking thing between remission and relapse,” she says. “I think I wanted to tell doctors that there is so much contradiction going on.”

Art may be subjective, but the doctors found the work exhibited by Langlet and the other group members unequivocally moving. “It was very touching,” says Dr. Hélène Boyer, vice president of MFdC, on seeing the exhibition. For Boyer, museum prescriptions offer physicians a way to connect with patients on this more emotional level. “We always ask ourselves: What more can I do? From now on, we can at least offer a moment of happiness,” Boyer said during the announcement last fall.

It might sound saccharine, but studies have shown that a trip to a museum increases levels of cortisol and serotonin, a hormonal uptick that boosts a sense of well-being. More than 10 clinical studies supervised by the MMFA Art and Health Committee are underway, including investigations on the benefits of art therapy for breast cancer patients and survivors, voluntary immigrants, and victims of violence. A recently published study by the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and Concordia University shows that visits and workshops at the MMFA contributed to a reduction in anxiety for people with eating disorders. Released last year, the results of a MMFA collaboration with RUIS McGill Centre of Excellence on Longevity and the Jewish General Hospital that evaluated the effects of museum activities for people 65 and older proved so successful that it has now been launched with 10 museums and institutions internationally, including in Australia, France, Israel, and Singapore.

Museum prescriptions are one facet of a growing “social prescribing” movement that first took hold in the United Kingdom, where doctors can now prescribe activities like boxing class and gardening to their patients. In December, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto launched a similar initiative, providing free entry to its Bat Cave, dinosaur halls, and other galleries for those with referrals. Legari hopes that the MMFA’s one-year pilot project will eventually be made more widely available, with more resources for independent therapeutic visits and longer-term alliances with doctors and patients.

“Art will bring you to a different level,” Langlet says. “I don’t know how to express it, but it brings you to a different level of understanding who you are as a human being and what you’re experiencing.”