Oxford University Publish 145 Stolen Benin Artefacts in Pitt Rivers Museum

On November 17, 2021, Dan Hicks, a curator at the Pitt Rivers Museum and author of The British Museums, released an interim report.

A total of 145 artifacts were listed in the report. The University of Oxford owns 100 of the 145 artefacts, with 43 on loan from the Dumas-Egerton Trust, and two on loan from Mark Walker.

Three of the University of Oxford’s 100 artworks are in the Ashmolean Museum’s collection, and 97 are in the Pitt Rivers Museum’s collection.

Brass plaques, bronze figures, carved ivory tusks, musical instruments, weaving equipment, jewellery, and ceramic and coral pieces are among the goods that arrived to the institution from roughly 20 different sources.

Read Also France Returns Artefacts Stolen from Benin Republic

It is the most recent museum to start a procedure that could lead to the works being returned to Nigeria. Benin bronzes have already been removed from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Arts in Washington.

The United States institution is one of the most well-known for returning objects stolen from Benin more than a century ago. Due to their presence in hundreds of museums and collectors across the West, Benin bronzes are among the most contentious objects to have on exhibit – despite their status as spoils of war.

Last month, Aberdeen University and Jesus College, Cambridge, both in the United Kingdom, returned looted statues to Nigeria.

In addition, Germany and Nigeria have also agreed to transfer ownership of over 1,100 looted artworks in German museum collections by 2022.

Hicks documented in the published report that while,

“decisions about deaccessioning and returns lie with trustee bodies not individual curators such as myself, this document has been researched and written in the firm belief that the work of restitution begins in part with the sharing of knowledge, and in the professional conviction that practical progress in the restitution of African cultural heritage is of the utmost importance in the 2020s.”

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According to Laura van Broekhoven, director of the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Benin Dialogue Group has been involved with the museum for a long time. Stating that they are working with Nigerian partners to figure out how to move forward. She mentioned as well that the report is a critical component of the process.

In July 2020, the university released a set of procedures for handling demands for the repatriation of cultural items. The university’s separate museums’ boards of visitors made recommendations to the University Council, which then informs the claimant of its decision.

“I am hopeful that because so much of the work has already been done, it won’t take too long” to repatriate the looted items, Van Broekhoven said.

The report can be accessed here on Pitts Rivers Museum website

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