Date of Completion
Dr. Alexandra Neel
Dr. Amy Woodson-Boulton
Today, the legacies of 19th century imperialism and colonialism are ever-present inside the West’s most prestigious encyclopedic museums, powerful institutions that continue to retain antiquities illicitly taken from countries during times of colonial rule, economic turmoil, or military conflict. Since the 1970s, more and more countries have come forward to request that Western museums return many of these antiquities. Contentious debates between museums and origin countries have resulted, producing large volumes of scholarship arguing both for and against repatriation. One common factor that links almost all of these arguments, however, is speculation over the fate of antiquities after repatriation.
In this talk, I first examine how scholarly arguments made for and against repatriation frequently invoke speculation rather than tangible evidence when discussing the fate of antiquities after repatriation. Arguing against predominantly speculative arguments, I will introduce original research conducted throughout Italy during May 2018, wherein I ascertained the current status and locations of nearly 40 antiquities repatriated to Italy from the J. Paul Getty Museum in 2007. Discussing my findings, I will showcase how additional research concentrating on antiquities post-repatriation can help cast a new light on speculative arguments for and against repatriation.
Findings from one particular instance of repatriation cannot be universally applied to all repatriation controversies. However, showcasing the insights obtained through my research in Italy, I argue that around the world, studying the fate of antiquities after repatriation can generate new perspectives on repatriation and help museums and origin countries construct productive frameworks for resolving repatriation controversies.
Hood, Erin, "Antiquity after Repatriation: New Perspectives on the Debate over Cultural Property" (2020). Honors Thesis. 405.