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Factors determining the repatriation of cultural heritage from museums; the place of cultural rights in British museums practice

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Factors determining the repatriation of cultural heritage from museums; the place of cultural rights in British museums practice


The cultural heritage of many former subaltern peoples and states resides in museums of their former colonial masters whether abroad or in the countries where they live. This can serve as a potent symbol of loss and humiliation. Repatriation of this heritage presents a significant challenge. Most museums operate policies that presume retention of heritage irrespective of the circumstances of its acquisition. Criteria are set which privilege the holding institution and which do not acknowledge the beliefs, custom and practise of the claimants. The contest over repatriation engages complex interacting systems. The museum operates within powerful systems of Western law, and its own ontology. The claimant group has little power other than its moral authority. Cultural rights would help redress that balance. But the recognition of cultural rights is not an international norm. This research paper uses a mixed methods approach to examine whether museum practise, and particularly museum practise in the United Kingdom, recognises cultural rights as indicated by their practise on repatriation.

Byrne, James Gerard (2015) Factors determining the repatriation of cultural heritage from museums; the place of cultural rights in British museums practice. Masters thesis, University of London.


Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: Human Rights & Development Studies
Divisions: Institute of Commonwealth Studies
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URI: http://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/id/eprint/6333
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