Benin bronzes

Are surgical museums such as the Hunterian doomed?

I have a soft spot for specimen jars and skeletal remains. Museums of natural history, surgical pioneering or anthropological oddities have always struck me as equally suitable for lunch breaks and first dates as for serious study and research. As far as public and casually accessible encounters with mortality go, these kinds of museums are the most straightforward way of confronting the realities of human nature. But whether we should have this kind of casual access is now increasingly being questioned. Telling history through displays of human remains presents a challenge for curators. They are responsible for contextualising exhibitions to ensure that the remains don’t become a dehumanised spectacle, while

Why Jesus College shouldn’t have returned its Benin bronze

Jesus College Cambridge can claim a world first. It is the first institution, at least in the twenty-first century, to return a so-called Benin Bronze because it was looted in a British punitive raid in 1897 on the historic Kingdom of Benin, now part of the territory of Nigeria. The College’s Master Sonita Alleyne has today handed over its Okukor – a brass statue of a cockerel that took pride of place in the college’s dining hall peering over generations of students – to Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments. Germany announced in May that its public museums would return their hundreds of Benin artefacts; Dan Hicks — Curator

Who really owns the Benin Bronzes?

Should the British Museum return its priceless collection of Benin Bronzes? For years, the museum has stood firm in its refusal to hand back artwork looted from the ancient kingdom of Benin, in what is now southern Nigeria. In doing so, it has defied the trend set by regional institutions in Britain, such as the university of Aberdeen. Earlier this year, the university confirmed that it would repatriate a bust of an Oba, or king of Benin, which it has had since the 1950s. As a result of refusing to take a similar stance, the British Museum has been heavily criticised – but there is a strong case to be made that its

Return the Danegeld: the reparations Britain is owed

Should Britain return colonial artefacts? For some, the answer is easy: of course. But these people must also be consistent and realise that the arguments posed for the return of stolen goods cut both ways. Just as they can be applied to make the case that the United Kingdom should pay out where it has plundered, they can be used to argue that Britain should be compensated where it was wronged. While we might want to return the Benin bronzes – plundered in a punitive expedition after the massacre of an unarmed British delegation – we should also be looking to reclaim the various treasures stolen from us. The idea