Citing a recent report commissioned by the French government, this article explores the imperative that European museums return artifacts plundered during colonial times to their countries of origin and shares heartening recent examples of museums that are taking real steps towards this. Horton underscores the importance of not just returning the artifacts– but critically, of investing in enhanced museum infrastructure in their home countries– ensuring they are available for generations to enjoy and experience.
If collections are to be returned, the West needs to take some responsibility for this state of affairs and invest in the African museums and their staff. It is not enough to send the contentious art and objects back to an uncertain future – there must be a plan to rebuild Africa’s crumbling museum infrastructure, supported by effective partnerships and real money.
European museums are under mounting pressure to return the irreplaceable artefacts plundered during colonial times. As an archaeologist who works in Africa, this debate has a very real impact on my research.