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Forging new links in Maputo, Mozambique

Dr Sarah Worden, Curator of African Collections at National Museums Scotland recently visited Maputo, Mozambique with an ICOM UK – British Council Travel Grant.  This is the blog Sarah wrote during her visit.  We will publish the full report from her visit in the coming weeks.

Whilst email brings people together from all over the world nothing beats sitting down together and talking face to face to enable a greater understanding of different and shared perspectives, aims and aspirations. The opportunity to do just this was realised with my recent successful ICOM UK British Council Travel Grant application

Student meeting at Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM)
© National Museums Scotland

With the grant I have been able to arrange my visit this week to Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, to continue roundtable discussions on the development of a co-created project grant application to the Rising from the Depths (RftD) network which aims to fund innovative projects related to Marine Cultural Heritage. I am the senior curator of the African collections at National Museums Scotland with a specialist interest in textiles and dress. I have been in meetings with Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM), the Fisheries Museum and the Fort Museum in Maputo to plan a project proposal which focuses on the role of women in coastal communities including investigation of the role of clothing in the expression of community and individual identity, to gain insights into Mozambiquan maritime heritage.

My programme during the visit has been organised by Assistant Professor Solange Macamo, of UEM, and co-investigator of the RftD project, and I am extremely grateful for her support and for the exciting itinerary plan. Today my host was Larsen Vales, the Director of the Fisheries Museum. The Museum, which is housed in a striking new building, opened in 2013, the roof inspired by the structure of a traditional upturned boat. The design complements the location it occupies on the harbourside where the fishing catch is landed, then sold at the busy stalls nearby. The objects on display have been collected along the coast and inland waters by a team of researchers who are currently carrying out a programme to map the history of fishing in the ten provinces of Mozambique.  A short tour to the covered fish market and associated seafood restaurants along the coast road in Maputo Bay with the museum team gave me an insight into the role of fishing for the local community even in the capital city.

Fort Museum staff
© National Museums Scotland

Earlier in the week, my meetings at the University and at the Fort Museum were very informative and productive and I have further meetings scheduled during my stay with the University staff and students to share our project proposal. Whilst here on my first visit to Maputo I will also make time to visit the craft market, art gallery and other sites to learn more about the contemporary art scene and the city’s fascinating history.

Restitution Report: museum directors respond

This article was first published in The Art Newspaper: https://www.theartnewspaper.com/comment/restitution-report-museums-directors-respond

The French academics Bénédicte Savoy and Felwine Sarr urge President Macron to return African artefacts. But does the report go too far, or not far enough?

Download the English version of the report at http://restitutionreport2018.com/


Tristram Hunt, Director, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Around halfway through this rich and textured report, the authors suddenly ask themselves: “So why then seek to restitute?” Is it an act of “soft power” aiming to “revalorize” France’s image to an African generation of youth that is less and less Francophile?” … “Or is it to institute a new relational ethics between peoples by helping to give back to them an impeded or blocked memory?”

Bénédicte Savoy and Felwine Sarr hope it is the latter: they are certainly not going to let President Macron get away with using provenance politics in his desire to wield influence in sub-Saharan Africa.

As regards their own ethical agenda, the report quotes approvingly the anthropologist Benoît de L’Estoile: the return of objects to Africa does not imply resigning them to a new form of enslavement to cultural identity, but rather bears the promise of a new economy of exchange. As such, the act of restitution cannot imply that “cultural heritage objects only retain their legitimate life within their original geocultural environments”. Museums and their capacity to situate artefacts within a broader narrative might, it seems, still have a role to play.

But for all the accompanying briefing that their conclusions do not imply a wholesale dispersal of African collections from Western institutions, that is, in fact, exactly what their report necessitates. For them, such restitution should be permanent; ongoing; and encompass a very broad account of what constitutes ineligible acquisition. Even if I am not wholly convinced by their approach, Savoy and Sarr should be praised for the honesty and clarity of their recommendations.

This report rightly reinforces how we must be transparent about the origins and nature of our collection.

We will see how the Elysée Palace and the French museums respond, but from my perspective there are some immediate reflections. The Macron report is a consciously state-led enterprise demanding bilateral responses between France and various African states. Within this architecture, museums are presented as instruments of government—and, as such, the restitution discourse is consciously situated within a broader narrative of post-colonial reparations and challenging structural inequality between the Global North and South.

In the UK, although national museums operate more independently as arms-length bodies, governed by trustees, they are also subject to legislation, which currently precludes attempts to deaccession the collection. As a museum director, I continue to believe in the merits of free, open museums able to range widely and share the global story of human ingenuity and creativity.

That said, this report rightly reinforces how we must be transparent about the origins and nature of our collection. As a museum born of the imperial moment, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A is working hard to open up our colonial past—not least with our recent display Maqdala 1868, telling the full story of the Abyssinian Expedition and our Ethiopian holdings. More than that, we are building partnerships and a relational ethic with educational institutions and museums (as well as governments) in societies of origin. Our ambition is to circulate more artefacts on long-term loan and, in the process, build up a richer curatorial and conservation exchange ecology. But we cannot do it on our own and I hope in future years, the British government might use some of its development budget to support cultural infrastructure in the Global South to allow for more partnership and loan activity.

Just as importantly, we are focused on the future. As a partner in the Leverhulme-funded international network, AfriDesignX, we have been developing new methodologies for interpreting emerging design trends in African urban contexts. In a series of workshops across Accra, Nairobi, London and Cape Town, the V&A, as a design museum, has examined the place of a Ghanaian robotic programme, a Kenyan video game and a Senegalese digital textile print within our collection.

Of course, we believe we can do both: confront the legacies of the colonial past with rigour and transparency, and also transform our institutions into learning, partnering, and reflexive organisations cognisant of their place within a process of global cultural exchange.

Hartmut Dorgerloh, General Director, Humboldt Forum, Berlin

Finding a suitable approach for dealing with cultural assets from colonial contexts is a pressing and complex political issue—in Germany as well as in France. The debate about how to treat this important aspect of the colonial heritage is as challenging as it is overdue. Essentially the question is: what is our relationship to people, countries, religions and cultures in America, Africa or Asia, in a world where everything is becoming ever more connected—economically, socially and politically?

One of the goals of provenance research, something that Germany has significantly intensified in recent years and is continuing to develop, is to clarify the circumstances under which objects came to Europe. In particular, it must be established whether injustice was done in the process, even if it will not always be possible to find out. Restitution can be a consequence of provenance research, and indeed in certain cases it is imperative. Looted art must always be returned.

In their report, Bénédicte Savoy and Felwine Sarr make a key contribution to the current debate. We will evaluate the report very carefully and discuss it with our international team of experts. Together with the Berlin museums, we will examine what these concrete proposals for French museums could mean for similar cases in the Berlin collections and for the Humboldt Forum.

We are also very interested in how the report will be received by the communities in the countries of origin. Whether the issue is researching provenance, undertaking restitution or considering how we at the Humboldt Forum focus on ethnic, religious or sexual minorities: we can only be successful by engaging in an ongoing dialogue and close cooperation with representatives of the relevant communities.

Nicholas Thomas, Director, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge

Emmanuel Macron’s Ouagadougou declaration that the restitution of African heritage to Africa will be one of his priorities, resonated with a sea-change in the museum sector, increasingly supportive of the temporary or permanent return of work to countries of origin, but also leapt ahead of many professionals’ expectations of what might be achievable, what might be actively supported by national governments, in the short term. It might be anticipated that Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy, the academics the president commissioned to advise regarding the project, would offer a considered assessment of options. Their document is not that, but a manifesto for swift, wide-ranging and open-ended restitution.

Central to its rhetoric and logic is the proposition that collections from Africa are encompassed by the historical crime of colonialism. The works of art and artefacts that fill ethnographic museums were either literally looted, appropriated in the aftermath of military operations, or in their vision coercively obtained under circumstances of colonial subjection: it is not imaginable that peoples would surrender their heritage if they were truly free to retain it. Yet material culture was not always, for everyone “heritage”.

Their understanding impels a sense that the only credible course of action is restitution, the return of objects to their rightful owners. It follows from a double misrecognition of both colonialism and of the material culture that indeed is represented in vast collections across European museums, and that indeed should be more accessible, globally and for communities of origin. Empire was certainly violent, extractive and exploitative, but it was also a highly uneven and heterogeneous field of interaction, marked not only by oppression and resistance but also by accommodation, collaboration, innovation and interests on both sides in traffic in ideas and objects. In local cultures it generated new cross-cultural art forms, including early souvenir and tourist arts that are extensively represented in museum collections, albeit commonly mistaken for customary forms extracted from the lives of communities. Collections are, in profound senses, expressions of engagement and creativity, not just of appropriation.

Across the European museum sector, and internationally, a commitment to deep accessibility has transformed the work of institutions: ambitious outreach and public engagement programmes, for example, aim to extend participation and inclusion. So far, as ethnographic and world cultures collections are concerned, any commitment to accessibility must place at its heart the capacity of communities of origin to see and to work with historic heritage. Over the last twenty years, collaboration involving community representatives, Indigenous artists and experts has become business as usual and has proceeded creatively, through research partnerships, through the co-collecting of new acquisitions, through the co-production of exhibitions, and through the return of human remains and artefacts, the latter often nominally on a loan basis, but with the expectation that temporary transfers may be renewed. It has to be said that the authors of the report have little awareness of quite how much work is going on, that already exemplifies the ideals of “dialogue, polyphony and exchange” which they cite as future possibilities.

Entranced by the prospect of swift moral victory, its authors fail to think strategically or practically

In their absolutist view, what matters is that collections are returned, that objects cease to the property of the French government and become that of the African state of origin. They dismiss “museum anxieties” but appear indifferent as to what happens once material returns. There are some strong and dynamic museums in Africa, but many institutions have suffered, despite the dedication of staff, from underinvestment and the indifference of governments. The collections they already hold, and those that might be returned, cannot be made accessible, and cannot be of public benefit, unless there are sustained efforts to develop capacity and improve facilities. While Sarr and Savoy reject a paradigm of circulation as merely an obfuscation of the moral imperative, co-curation and co-stewardship could be seen entirely differently, to provide a basis for joint responsibility and joint commitment to care for collections and develop capacity, to realise the potential of great human creations to contribute to education and society in African nations as well as elsewhere. Multicultural Europe, more than ever, needs museums that recognise and affirm the cultures and achievements of peoples worldwide.

The report—and indeed Macron’s mission—is somewhat impoverished through a focus solely on Africa

The report—and indeed Macron’s mission—is somewhat impoverished through a focus solely on Africa. If coming to terms with colonial legacies is so vital, it is strange that Oceania, among other regions, is not included. France is still a colonial power in the Pacific, and the very extensive collections from across that region raise related questions, while recent projects such as Quai Branly’s 2013-14 Kanak exhibition point to the possibilities and power of co-curation and circulation.

The Sarr-Savoy report may be seen as provocative and stimulating, but is unconvincing at the level of detail. Entranced by the prospect of swift moral victory, its authors fail to think strategically or practically about how the arts of great civilisations can be circulated, redistributed, interpreted and made accessible in sustainable ways, that will make a difference in their milieux of origin and elsewhere.

– compiled by Julia Michalska

Meanwhile in France…

Stéphane Martin, the chairman of the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris, says he is “quite happy” with the president’s response, to call for a Euro-African conference on the subject and to return 26 objects to Benin. Macron struck the “right balance” between the demands for restitution and the need to preserve the museums’ collections. He stresses that his museum proposed “the return to Benin of regalia from his collection, as an important symbolic gesture towards Africa”. The 26 statues and items which were looted by French troops in 1892 are now, he says, destined “to be permanently exhibited in a brand new museum”, which is under construction in Benin. He also welcomes the prospect of a European conference and says he is relieved that “President Macron has put the Culture Minister and the museums at the center of this whole procedure”.

In an op-ed published in le Figaro (“Museums have a vocation to keep their African collections”) France’s former culture minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon, said he is surprised by the “offhandedness” of the authors. The report, he says, is indeed “a manifesto, built on the assumptions and involvement of the authors, leaving hardly any place for contradiction” and leading to “radical propositions”. He continued: “Their implementation would empty the museums, and especially the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, where the works would be replaced by copies!” He pleaded for the culture ministry to take a central role, for a Europe-wide debate, and constant communication with Unesco. Even if “this was not the intention of the authors”, he finds that the principles expressed in the report “confines everyone to national borders”. Instead, Aillagon calls for the “universal discourse” led by museums.

Jean François Charnier, the former scientific director of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, says he is “not against the principle of restitution, quite the contrary actually”. But, he warns, that such restitutions “should not be led only by a culturalist and anti-Western view. Colonisation was a complex period, which cannot be reduced to war, violence and pillage. This report is unilateral. It should have accepted the other side that also shows fascination, research and history construction, opening the way to an equitable approach that would not deny the importance of plurality and culture sharing. This fairer view would allow all of us to conceive a contemporary universalism in these times of globalisation, integrating the construction of identities in a mutual relationship. This is the basis of museums such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi. This example may also be relevant for Africa, where one or two museums could show not only African works, but also European paintings or Chinese ceramics, and confront them with the great civilisations of the continent, in the spirit of the Musée Dynamique founded in 1966 by Léopold Sédar Senghor.”

– compiled by Vincent Noce

The Brexit Deal explained by the Department for International Trade (DIT)

On 29 March 2019, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, thereby fulfilling the democratic decision taken by the British people.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) is at the heart of EU Exit delivery. They are responsible for helping businesses export, driving inward and outward investment, preparing to negotiate market access and trade deals, and championing free trade.

To help the British public and businesses understand what the deal will deliver, Her Majesty’s Government has launched the ‘Brexit Deal Explained’ website.

This website explains the Withdrawal Agreement, which sets out the terms of the UK’s smooth and orderly exit from the European Union, and the Political Declaration, which sets out a framework for the UK’s ambitious future relationship with the European Union that delivers in our national interest.

Here you can find out what the Brexit deal means for the:

  • Economy
  • Jobs
  • Security
  • Free trade
  • Businesses
  • Borders

Maritime Silk Road museum planned in Quanzhou, Fujian province, China

This article was first publish by The Telegraph: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/world/china-watch/culture/maritime-silk-road-museum/

The Palace Museum and Shimao Group will build a museum focused on the Maritime Silk Road in Quanzhou, Fujian province, where the ancient maritime route began.

The Maritime Silk Road Museum of the Palace Museum is expected to play an important role in the application to have Unesco list the maritime route as world intangible heritage, said Shan Jixiang, director of the Palace Museum in Beijing.

Mr Shan spole at the groundbreaking ceremony last month of the contract to build the new museum, to be located in Shishi (stone lion), a city in the municipal region of Quanzhou. It is to house relics from the Maritime Silk Road and hold temporary exhibitions of treasures from the collection of the Palace Museum.

The Palace Museum will also support the construction, exhibition design and operations of the new museum, Mr Shan said.

The Maritime Silk Road was an ancient sea passage for trade and cultural exchanges between the East and the West. Its heyday was during the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties. It stretched from China’s coastal areas, including Quanzhou, one of the important port cities, to East Africa and Europe, by way of more than 100 countries and regions.

At the time, Chinese goods exported through the passage mainly included silk, tea and porcelain. From the West came not only gems, spices and medicines, but also science and technology.

The Palace Museum in Beijing, also known as the Forbidden City, has an abundant collection of Maritime Silk Road relics, given that many of the imported treasures were meant for the royal court. The Palace Museum was China’s royal residence during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

Mr Shan said the museum has about 25,000 such relics. They include porcelain, calligraphy and paintings, books, wares made of jade, cloisonné enamel, gold and silver and timepieces that were exhibited at the Meridian Gate Gallery of Palace Museum last year.

On exhibition in Shishi now are lion-related treasures from the Palace Museum, given that the lion was seen as a symbol of cultural exchange along the ancient Silk Road.

The overland and maritime passages of the Silk Road, along with some inland canals in China, were connected historically and formed a huge network of trade and cultural exchange, Mr Shan said.

Hui Wing Mau, founder of Shimao Group, said the company has been working with the Palace Museum to develop a two-year plan of exhibitions for the Maritime Silk Road museum. Last year Mr Hui paid $20 million (£15 million) to private collectors for an ancient scroll named Landscape Map of the Silk Road to be housed in the Forbidden City.

The coloured map, 98.7ft long by 2ft wide, is believed to have been painted in the middle of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It depicts the ancient trade routes starting from Jiayuguan, at the western end of the Great Wall during Ming rule, through Central and West Asia to the Middle East. Marked on the scroll are 221 sites in dozens of countries and regions, including key spots on the ancient Silk Road such as Dunhuang in Gansu province, Samarkand in Uzbekistan, Esfahan in Iran, Damascus in Syria and Mecca.

The scroll will be exhibited at the Hong Kong Science Museum at the end of the year, Shan said. Presentations on ancient mapping methods will also be given.

Workshop on Cultural Heritage, Migration and the Indian Diaspora

The AHRC is pleased to announce a call for UK researchers to attend a workshop on ‘Cultural Heritage, Migration and Indian Diaspora’. Organised in partnership with the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR), the event will bring together academic experts from both countries to explore how the experiences of the Indian diaspora and migratory movements have shaped Indian cultural heritage, and the importance of this heritage to the sustainable development of India.

A key aim of the workshop is to enable researchers from the UK and India to reflect on the achievements of the AHRC/ICHR programme so far as well as network and develop partnerships with a view to submitting proposals to a research networking call thereafter. It will build on two joint AHRC-ICHR workshops and small networking call held in 2015 and 2017 which gave researchers from the UK and India the opportunity to build partnerships and networks addressing challenges related to cultural heritage in India.

Expressions of interest to participate in the workshop are invited from UK-based researchers meeting the AHRC’s standard eligibility requirements from all disciplines within the arts and humanities. Applicants should have a particular research interest in the topics noted above and be able to articulate this in their expression of interest.

The AHRC expects to support the attendance of around 20 UK-based researchers, with the ICHR identifying a similar number of Indian academics.

The workshop will take place in Ahmedabad, India on the 30-31st January 2019 and will be funded through the Newton Fund.  The Newton-Bhabha Fund is the partnership through which the UK and India work together jointly to address global issues which are important to both countries. The Newton-Bhabha Fund is jointly supported by the UK and India. India’s contribution towards the Newton-Bhabha partnership is through the Ministries’/organisations’ existing budgets whereas the UK’s contribution is through the Newton Fund which is an ODA funded initiative managed by BEIS and which strengthens research partnerships between the UK and in-country researchers.

Closing Date:

Deadline: 16:00 (GMT) Wednesday 12th December 2018


How to make an application:

For further information and guidance regarding how to apply to attend please see the call document.

To apply to attend, please complete the following Smart Survey questionnaire

Further information:

India Cultural Heritage Workshop (PDF, 444KB)


Gemma Evans – newtonfund@ahrc.ac.uk

James Davies- James.Davies@ahrc.ukri.org

Museums in France Should Return African Treasures, Report Says

This article was first published by The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/21/arts/design/france-museums-africa-savoy-sarr-report.html

The sprawling Quai Branly Museum in Paris is stuffed with treasure. It has some 70,000 objects from sub-Saharan Africa in its collection, including magnificent statues from present-day Benin and delicate paintings that once decorated church walls in Ethiopia. But a long-awaited report coming out this week could have a dramatic impact on what visitors see there, with repercussions for other international museums.

The report was commissioned in March by President Emmanuel Macron of France from two academics, who were asked to draw up proposals for the restitution of pieces of African cultural heritage.

The academics, Bénédicte Savoy of France and Felwine Sarr of Senegal, recommend that objects that were removed and sent to mainland France without the consent of their countries of origin be permanently returned — if the country of origin asks for them. This restitution should be part of a collaborative process of information gathering, research, scientific exchange and training in the next five years, they say.

The report could have far-reaching consequences for the international museum world. It says that 90 to 95 percent of Africa’s cultural heritage is held outside Africa by major museums. France alone has at least 90,000 objects from sub-Saharan Africa in its national collections, of which 70,000 are inside the Quai Branly Museum. The rest are elsewhere in Paris, in port cities like Cherbourg and Le Havre, and in large centres like Lyon and Grenoble.

“There is no question, either for us or for our African counterparts, of emptying French or European museums to fill up African ones,” Ms. Savoy, an art historian and professor at the Technical University of Berlin and a professor at the Collège de France, said in an interview this month. “This is obviously not a case of transferring back the 70,000 objects from sub-Saharan Africa that are today in the collections of the Quai Branly Museum and that arrived in France over a period of 150 years.”

Instead, Ms. Savoy said, the aim is to arrive at “a rebalancing of the geography of African heritage in the world, which is currently extremely imbalanced, as European museums have almost everything, and African museums have almost nothing.”

To help achieve that rebalancing, the report recommends the restitution of “any objects taken by force or presumed to be acquired through inequitable conditions” by the army, scientific explorers or administrators during the French colonial period in Africa, which lasted from the late 19th century until 1960.

The report is already sending shudders through the French museum world after the newsmagazine Le Point leaked excerpts from it on Monday with the alarming headline: “African artworks: A report recommends giving everything back (or just about)!” The magazine said the report did nothing to dispel fears that entire sections of the Quai Branly Museum would be emptied.

Elsewhere in Europe, museums will be closely watching the fallout from the report, which could increase pressure on them to return objects from their own collections. The British Museum in London has some 700 objects from the Kingdom of Benin, whose territory is now part of Nigeria. Berlin is hoping to fill its new Humboldt Forum museum with several hundred sculptures from the same kingdom and known as the Benin Bronzes.

Both institutions are part of the Benin Dialogue Group, a museum consortium that is looking into the return of some Benin treasures to Nigeria on long-term loan. The French report advises against such measures in favor of permanent restitution.

Mr. Macron first raised the issue in November 2017, when he stood before hundreds of students at a university in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, and made a bold promise that had them clapping and cheering.

“I cannot accept that a large part of the cultural heritage of several African countries should be in France,” he said. “Africa’s heritage must be showcased in Paris, but also in Dakar, in Lagos, in Cotonou. This will be one of my priorities. Starting today, and in the next five years, I want to see the conditions put in place so as to allow for the temporary or definitive restitution of African cultural heritage to Africa.”

The question is how far Mr. Macron will go in implementing the recommendations of a nonbinding report, albeit one he ordered himself. Earlier this year, he tore up a set of proposals he commissioned on improving economic conditions in suburban areas. While Mr. Macron has a comfortable majority in the French Parliament, he has an approval rating of 25 percent and faces a nationwide strike against a planned gasoline tax increase.

The Quai Branly museum declined to comment until the report was delivered to Mr. Macron on Friday and read by the museum’s president, Stéphane Martin.

Marie-Emmanuelle Pommerolle, an Africa specialist and lecturer at Panthéon-Sorbonne University in Paris, said Mr. Macron’s campaign for restitution was typical of his approach to domestic and foreign policy.

“Macron is determined to personify a new political generation that has no links to the colonial period,” Ms. Pommerolle said. He wants to make a “break with the generations that came before.”

Ms. Pommerolle said Mr. Macron’s statement on restitution was “in keeping with the acknowledgement of a violent past, of a violent relationship with the African continent, and of practices that, even decades later, cannot be considered legitimate.”

At the same time, Ms. Pommerolle cautioned, the return of objects to Africa must be led by museum professionals and not politicians.

“This is a discussion that has to take place between arts professionals and academics,” she said. “Otherwise, there will be a politicization of restitution.”

Mr. Sarr, an economist at Gaston Berger University in Saint-Louis, Senegal, said in an interview that he and Ms. Savoy travelled to four African countries — Mali, Senegal, Benin and Cameroon — to meet with government officials, museum directors and art specialists before writing the report.

He said that contrary to Mr. Macron’s remarks in Ouagadougou, all restitutions had to be permanent.

“We’re proposing a framework that takes into account the time constraints of the requesting nations,” he said, “so that we’re not imposing a vast quantity of restituted objects on them, and are making sure that they actually want restitution, are prepared for it and are in a position to organize it.”

In the first phase, the report recommends in the next year “the formal restitution of several largely symbolic pieces whose return has been requested for a long time by various African nations or communities.”

Topping the list are precious statues, palace doors and thrones that were plundered by French forces in 1892 from the royal city of Abomey in present-day Benin. They are among the most significant African objects on display at the Quai Branly Museum. Their restitution was requested by the president of Benin in 2016 and refused on the grounds that the French national collections were “inalienable,” meaning no part of them could ever be given away.

Other objects in France that the report says should be returned in this first phase are from Senegal, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mali and Cameroon.

In the second phase from next spring until November 2022, French and African teams would, according to the proposals, carry out inventories of the French collections and share those digitally. The report recommends setting up joint commissions to examine restitution requests and advise on conservation, curatorial education and training. During this phase, “works judged to be important by the nation-states and communities concerned” should be restituted, the report says.

In the third and final phase, which is open-ended, African states that have not put in restitution claims already would be able to do so. “The process of restitution should not be limited in time,” the report says. “We should avoid giving the impression that the historical window which opened during the speech at Ouagadougou in 2017 is at risk of shutting again anytime soon.”

Call for Papers for the Panel: European Cultural Heritage – Celebrating Diversity

As part of the 7th Euroacademia International Conference ‘The European Union and the Politicization of Europe’, Bruges, Belgium, 25 – 26 January 2019

Deadline: 10th of December 2018

For complete information before applying, see full details of the conference here.

You can apply online by completing the Application Form on the conference website or by sending 300 words titled abstract together with the details of contact and affiliation until 10th of December 2018 at application@euroacademia.org

New book – Cosmopolitan Ambassadors: International exhibitions, cultural diplomacy and the polycentral museum

Cosmopolitan Ambassadors: International exhibitions, cultural diplomacy and the polycentral museum written by Lee Davidson and Leticia Perez-Castellanos and published by Vernon Press.

This book is based on a 5-year study of the exhibition exchange between New Zealand and Mexico. The study raised some important questions that the authors felt were not adequately addressed in existing publications such as: How are museums working internationally through exhibitions? What motivates this work? What are the benefits and challenges? What factors contribute to success? What impact does this work have for audiences and other stakeholders? What contributions are they making to cultural diplomacy, intercultural dialogue and understanding?

In Cosmopolitan Ambassadors the authors consider the current state of knowledge about international exhibitions and then propose an interdisciplinary analytical framework encompassing museum studies, visitor studies, cultural diplomacy and international cultural relations, cosmopolitanism and intercultural studies. This is followed by a comprehensive empirical analysis of the exhibition exchange which involved two exhibitions that crossed five countries and three continents, connecting six high profile cultural institutions and spanning almost a decade from initial conception to completion (see more in The Project).

A detailed comparison of both the intercultural production of international exhibitions by museum partnerships and by the interpretive acts and meaning-making of visitors, reveals the many complexities, challenges, tensions and rewards of international exhibitions and their intersection with cultural diplomacy.

Key themes include the realities of international collaboration, its purposes, processes and challenges; the politics of cultural (self-) representation and Indigenous museology; implications for exhibition design, interpretation, and marketing; intercultural competency and museum practice; audience reception and meaning-making; cultural diplomacy in practice and perceptions of its value.

On the basis of this first-ever empirically-grounded, theoretical analysis of international exhibitions the authors propose a new model of museums as polycentral: as places that might produce a kaleidoscopic vision of multiple centres and help to dissolve cultural boundaries by encouraging dialogue, negotiation and the search for intercultural understandings. Guidelines for practice include recommendations for successful international museum partnerships, exhibition development and maximizing the potential of museum diplomacy.

Candian doctors to prescribe museum visits

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has teamed up with a doctors’ organisation in the city for a pilot project that will issue up to 50 prescriptions to visit exhibitions as a complement to traditional treatment.

A doctors’ organisation and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) are partnering to allow physicians to write prescriptions for free museum visits.

The initiative is being billed as the first of its kind in the world.  The project launched on 1 November.

The museum says patients will be able to have a “relaxing, revitalizing experience, a moment of respite” browsing their collection.

Physicians members of Médecins francophones du Canada will be able to register, in the initial phase of the project, to issue up to 50 prescriptions for a visit to MMFA collections and exhibitions as a complement to more traditional treatment options.

Nathalie Bondil, the museum’s director general, is behind the initiative and believes that cultural experiences will soon be recognised, like physical activity currently, for their health benefits.

She told the BBC that the “neutral, beautiful, inspiring space” of a museum can boost mood, improve wellbeing, and give patients a chance to explore experiences and senses outside of their illness.

Ms Bondil hopes if the initiative is a success it will be picked up by museums around the world.

“We can open new doors, not just for the patients, but also for the doctors,” she said.

In a statement, Dr Hélène Boyer, with the Médecins francophones du Canada, said there is a growing body of research that suggests contact with art has a positive impact on people’s health.

“I am confident that my patients will be delighted to visit the museum to ease their suffering, without any side effects,” she said.

Doctors can prescribe the visits to help address both the physical and mental ailments of their patients.

The museum also offers art therapy programmes, recently hired an in-house art therapist, and is participating in clinical studies looking at the impact of museum visits on people with various mental and physical health problems, from eating disorders to breast cancer.

The idea that “art is good medicine”, as the Montreal museum claims, is gaining traction around the world.

In 2017, the h All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing in the UK produced a report stating that “the time has come to recognise the powerful contribution the arts can make to our health and wellbeing”.

The report suggested there are demonstrable benefits to using art in various ways for health, from incorporating art into hospitals to getting patients involved in arts programmes.


This article first appeared on the BBC online https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45972348

Call for Case Studies for the 2019 Working Internationally Conference

The 2019 Working Internationally Conference will take place on Monday 11 March 2019 at The British Library in London.

The conference theme is ‘Working Together to Achieve More’.  Delegates at previous Working Internationally conferences have asked for more case studies.  In response to this, we will have one session dedicated to case studies from across the sector on working internationally.

We are now accepting proposals for case studies on working internationally.  These should be practical examples that conference delegates can learn from, with an emphasis on working in partnership or leveraging the power of networks.  Working internationally could mean being part of an international network but delivering work in the UK, or it could mean working outside of the UK with partners in one or more countries.  We are interested in a broad range of case studies from across the museum sector.

How to submit a Case Study proposal

Send an outline of your case study, including bullet points of the learning outcomes for conference delegates (maximum 350 words) to uk.icom.museum@gmail.com before 3 December 2018.  

Case Study presenters will receive a free conference ticket.  If you need support with travel expenses, please let us know when you submit a proposal.  We will have a small budget to help with travel expenses for presenters travelling from outside London.

View the outline conference programme and book your tickets at https://wiconf2019.eventbrite.com

ICOM UK members, NMDC members and British Library staff can purchase tickets at the discounted price of £49 (regular price £75).  A limited number of student tickets are available for £25.