Moai at the British Museum, Image: M.chohan (wikimedia)
Over 33,000 artefacts of Indigenous Australian heritage are held in UK museums. Some of these artefacts are believed to have been stolen during or shortly after Captain James Cook’s first voyage to Australia 250 years ago.
Craig Ritchie, the head of the world’s biggest repatriation project says “If it’s true that Brexit is more than simply getting out of some kind of political union with Europe and is, in fact, an expression of the UK trying to rethink its place in the world independent of Europe, then part of that is the opportunity to rethink and recalibrate the relationship between the UK and its former colonial dominions and … the indigenous people in those former colonies”.
With regard to repatriation of objects, not everything might come back and probably should not. But he feels that “a decision that should be made by the community of origin rather than just a recalcitrant white institution that’s refusing to give stuff back”.