Culture & Controversy: Should Museums Return Ancient Artifacts?

(funky music) – Hello, hello, and welcome
back to Rogue Rocket. My name is Philip DeFranco, and today’s story has it all, you got adventure, exotic
locations, political intrigue, and most of all, drama. And in part we’re gonna kinda look at whether everyone’s favorite
archeologist Indiana Jones is really a hero or a villain, because this has actually
been hotly debated since before Indiana
Jones was even a movie. And obviously, this whole video
is not about Indiana Jones, but more specifically his field of work. Although, Indy did say something that really gets to the essence of this whole debate. (climatic music)
– This was the second time I’ve had to reclaim my property from you! – It belongs in a museum! – Many governments,
institutions, and people around the world believe
that not everything belongs in a museum. Especially western
museums that Indiana Jones would have taken things to during his era, with many thinking that
these artifacts do belong where they were found. So to help us dive into the
world of cultural artifacts and encyclopedic museums,
I’m gonna hand it over to Brian Espinoza from
the Rogue Rocket team. – [Brian] For well over
(drum beat) a 100 years people have
been arguing over who owns the cultural artifacts
in encyclopedic museums all over the world. To give you an idea of what
we’re even talking about, here’s some headlines you may have seen. Turkey demands returns of
plundered ancient artifacts. Macron agrees to return Benin
sculptures without delay. Greek president demands UK
return Parthenon marbles from “murky prison” of British Museum. But before we can move on, we should define cultural artifacts, encyclopedic museums, and repatriate, otherwise this story’s
gonna be extra confusing. So, cultural artifacts,
and to switch it up, I’ll just say artifacts sometimes too, are anything created by
humans which gives information about the culture of
its creators and users. Encyclopedic museums, sometimes
called universal museums, are museums with collections of artifacts from all around the world. Think of places like the British Museum, the Smithsonian Museums in DC, or the Louvre in Paris. And finally, repatriate, to send, in this case, something
back to its own country. So after hearing all that, I wanna ask you, do you think encyclopedic museums should repatriate cultural artifacts? I want you to remember your answer, because we’re gonna revisit this later on. When it comes to that question, there are basically two camps. On one hand, there are the encyclopedic museums of the world. They say that they’re there for the betterment of all mankind. By having these artifacts from
all over the world together, it allows people to compare and contrast cultures and
see how far off places relate to their own. And these museums hope to
break down cultural barriers and biases and enrich
everyone’s knowledge. Especially as the world
becomes increasingly diverse, and people are more often
encountering neighbors who don’t share the same
cultural background as their own. While, on the other hand, there are people in groups
that feel like their culture has been taken away from them and moved far away. – We understand that the
Moai is very important for the collection of the museum, but I’m really sure, and our delegation, especially
the people from Rapa Nui, are absolutely sure that they understood the meaning for them of this Moai, this is much more than a stone. – [Brian] And while the idea of encyclopedic museums sounds nice, the rhetoric can feel hollow, because while these artifacts
come from all over the world, the museums are centralized
in wester nations, often places that are inaccessible to much of the world’s population. A couple from Benin often
can’t afford to travel to the Quai Branly in
France to look at artifacts originating from their homeland. On top of that, these museums can drive tourism, leaving some places
feeling like other nations are receiving monetary gains
off of their cultural heritage. But those are really just
the surface level arguments, because each group, country, organization, and person has their
own unique perspectives. And each artifact has its own unique story of how it ended up in
an encyclopedic museum. When you begin looking
into each unique scenario, things quickly become complicated. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, let’s look at the Elgin Marbles. Quite possibly the most famous
dispute between a government and a museum over an artifact. Their history starts
back in ancient Greece, where for thousands of years
they sat there until 1801. Then Thomas Bruce, seventh Earl of Elgin, began to remove about half of the surviving sculptures out of Greece and shipped them to the UK where they currently sit
at the British Museum. All of this was done with
the approval of the Ottomans who had been in control of Greece for over 200 years at that point. But when Greece became independent in the early 1800’s after revolution, they began to ask for artwork, including these marbles,
to be repatriated. Ever since then, the
British Museum has refused to give ’em back, claiming they were legally acquired, while Greece claims they
were plundered and stolen. The marbles are from Greece and were taken out of the
country with the permission from an occupying power, not from Greece. In this case, the British
Museum points to documentation that Lord Elgin removed the artifacts with permission from Ottoman authorities, who, at the time, ruled over Greece for around 200 years. And in general, encyclopedic
museums often point out that their artifacts were legally moved into their collections according
to the laws of the time. But in the case of the Elgin Marbles, we actually don’t have
the original documents. Only an Italian translation
that some scholars have called in to question. Disputes over provenance,
a conclusive paper trail to show how artifacts were obtained, aren’t unique to the Elgin Marbles. Egypt claims that german
archeologists lied to them and forged documents
when the Nefertiti Bust was removed from Egypt in
the early 20th century, and because of that, Germany has no legitimate
claim to the item. Turkish officials have similar claims when it comes to items like
Priam’s treasure in Moscow, or collection of items at the Met. But what if a museum
can’t prove provenance, or doesn’t think it has
to return the items? Well, in these cases, Egypt and Turkey have
both threatened to cut off further archeological digs
and collection sharing. But this goes a lot deeper. For example, France has thousands of items from Benin, a former colony. According to the laws of the time, it was part of France, meaning France could extract items and goods from it. Modern sensibilities generally disagree with the policies of colonial powers, and agree there were unequal
power structures in place that didn’t allow for
these people to hold on to their cultural artifacts. Now, Benin wants these
cultural artifacts repatriated, and France refuses to do so, and has consistently
refused to do for decades. There’s even a law declaring just about anything in her possession, somewhat ironically, as part of the cultural history of France and illegal to remove. But the items have been
used as political capital, with french presidents, including Macron, promising to return some of the sculptures as acts of goodwill. Politics in general plays a
major role in this debate. Sometimes these calls for
repatriation are an attempt by certain political
groups to tie their nation to a glorified past. We spoke with Dr. Jim Cuno, president and CEO of
the J. Paul Getty Trust, who pointed to the famous
example of Saddam Hussein trying to play up the Iraqi
position in the Arab world. during the late 1970’s. – The real of case of it was in Iraq, where there was a sense
of an unbroken legacy, and historical legacy of Iraq back to ancient earliest civilizations. And at the time, during the latter part
of the 20th century, there was a criticism of Egypt, in which it had been broken
with its ancient past, according to those in Iraq who
promoted this vision of Iraq, so there’s a claim that all
these cultures were in there to be supportive of the
view of the nation’s state, and the nation’s state, of course in the case of Iraq, is only about 70 years old. So there’s no real connection between the modern nation’s state and the ancient past. – [Brian] It was a way for Saddam Hussein to attempt to take the
title of the preeminent Arab country from Egypt by saying there was a continuity in Iraq’s history, but that ancient Egyptian history isn’t tied to modern Egypt. But sometimes these ties
to a past can be dubious. The Turkish government
wants many artifacts back from Byzantine and pre Roman times, stuff like Priam’s treasure. But here’s the catch, modern Turkey, and largely modern Turks, don’t really have a cultural or ethnic connection to Priam’s treasure. Priam’s treasure is from
an offshoot Greek peoples who aren’t around any longer. Ethnic Turks conquered
the area in the 1400’s, and there’s nearly a 2,000 year
difference between the two, and many different ethnic groups occupying the area since then. The only serious connection
is that the modern state of Turkey controls the land. In this same scenario feeds another argument and counter argument. Sometimes nations ask for
their artifacts to return so visitors can see them
in their original context, and the society that made them. It kinda makes sense, you wanna see marbles from the
Parthenon in the Parthenon, or at least in Greece. As we saw in Turkey, sometimes that past can be dubious. But even in places like Greece, where there seems to be a continuity with the ancient past, it’s not black and white. – And taking an example
of the Elgin Marbles is a good example, because the history of the Elgin Marbles dates back 2500 years, and so the culture, the context in which one
would restore them today is not the context in which
they were originally in when they were made, because what’s happened
in the interim, of course, is that they have suffered the detriment of environmental conditions that have changed over the course of time. And most recently, most important, when Greece became independent, when it out from the Ottomans in the early part of the 19th century, they eliminated from the
site of the Decapolis all the non Greek remaining objects, so there was a mosque that was taken down, there were early other accretions. So they cleansed the Acropolis
of non Greek remains. And so they got rid of
the context that was there just years before in order to go back to kind of revived historic
context of ancient Greece. So it depends in what
context you want to refer to, the ancient past, the middle past, the more recent past, because history doesn’t
stop at any one point, it continues to accumulate
important contextual values over the course of time. – [Brian] Then there’s the argument that encyclopedic museums
are better equipped to take care of cultural artifacts, allowing for further research and study, and saving the artifacts for humanity to see and appreciate them. And while that’s true in some cases, it’s also true that many nations that have their cultural artifacts removed are now well equipped themselves, bringing us back to the Elgin Marbles, it’s widely accepted that
Greece can take care of them, not to mention that the British Museum, one of the most advanced and capable institutions in the world, has actually damaged
the marbles in the past. But that’s just one example, because as you’ll see
throughout this piece, there’s a million unique scenarios. In Afghanistan, the Taliban let a campaign to destroy monuments, artifacts, that were seen as idols, which are banned by Islam. Then in 2013, Mali had issues where rebels and Al-Qaeda affiliated
groups took over Timbuktu, a world famous heritage sight, and proceeded to destroy
ancient artifacts. And more recently, in
Syria in northern Iraq, Isis decided to smash a Palmyra, as well as Babylonian in a Syrian site. Obviously, some of these sites are too big to put into a museum abroad, but there were smaller
artifacts in museums in these regions that were destroyed. But are there any solutions for these two sites to compromise? Well, possibly. Between the ’60’s and ’70’s, the UN and 140 countries negotiated and signed an agreement
to dissuade countries from buying artifacts illegally. Anything bought this way would be required to be returned. This was done to protect sites and dry up revenue streams for looters. They would go into these areas and steal anything that could be stolen, particularly smaller artifacts. It got to a point where
major damage was being done to historic and cultural sites. Meanwhile, in the United States, there have been a series of laws laying out detailed ways
for Smithsonian museums to return Native American artifacts, especially human remains, and those of religious significance. Thousands have been returned, and while that may seem like a loss for encyclopedic museums, many tribes, especially
those without proper funds to take care of the artifacts, have taken up the Smithsonian’s offer to hold these items in trust. Meaning, they’re available
to be seen in museums while tribes can still feel
like a wrong has been righted. But outside of that model, which even the Smithsonian lobbied against while it was still in congress, there are other solutions
museums themselves can take. Some nation’s museums would
like to be able to share collections and artifacts more often, and Dr. Cuno even said that this was where things were moving towards. – I think that the future is going to be a matter of sharing collections, and building capacity among
all the different museums that might be involved
in such a relationship. There’s a period of time
in which an aquisition was the principle motive of
accumulation of collections that are providing context or
understand the collections, and now I think it’s gonna be sharing. The Getty has just announced an initiative that we’re calling Ancient Worlds Now, and part of that initiative
will be the presentation and protection of cultural heritage, and then the presentation
of cultural heritage we’re gonna be working with a consortium of museums to provide a
collection sharing scheme to provide access to the
collections, to objects, and cultures that they
don’t have access to so they can understand
that we are all part of the same complex world, and the more we know about
the world the better. – [Brian] Here’s why Ancient Worlds Now, which will be launched in about 10 months, was seen as a good solution. The Getty would identify five partner museums around the world. They could be in Mexico
City, Mumbai, Shanghai, or even in areas traditionally tied to having artifacts removed, like Mosul in Iraq. The ideas that these places
have amazing collections of their own cultures, but lack items from
others around the world. For example, we were
told it’s rare for Mexico to have access to large
collections of Indian artifacts, and we mean South Asian
Indian, not Native American. It’s also rare for Indian
museums to have access to large Chinese collections. Ancient World Now would
facilitate these places to share their collections
with each other. Dr. Cuno also added that ideally, large collections from traditional encyclopedic museums, those in Britain, Germany, America, et
cetera, would also partake. And he also really emphasized
that he wasn’t worried about who owns the artifact, a common debate we’ve seen
between all the sides. – So when it gets all hung
on questions of ownership, that’s not so important to me. What’s important to me
is that the protection of cultural heritage, and the sharing of cultural heritage for the world. – [Brian] At the end of the day, he wants as many of these artifacts from all over the world in front of as many people as possible. Arguing that increased exposure to other cultures breaks down barriers. Also adding that in today’s world, in increased immigration
and cultural mingling, it’s hard to say that
people shouldn’t be able to enjoy their cultural heritage
in the places they live, even if that’s outside their homeland. But there are some instances
where this isn’t enough, and for many nations, their continued calls to return any items that were removed while under the control of a foreign power. And often, museums and
nations actively wanna settle any debate over ownership
before any loans can be made. So to wrap this up, as we’ve seen, this is an
extremely complex issue with a million unique situations, so it really comes down
to whether you think that as a net whole, encyclopedic museums do a massive service to people around the world. Or, if you think that
historical injustices should be righted at
the cost of these items being widely available around the world. With all of that said, I wanna revisit this question from the start of our video, and I want you to remember
how you initially answered it. Do you think encyclopedic museums should repatriate cultural artifacts? And do you think you have
a different answer now than you did when we started? – Now, clearly the debate between nations and museums over cultural artifacts isn’t an easy one to settle. But, with everything that’s been said, everything that’s been showcased, we of course wanna pass
the question off to you, can you think of any
solutions that satisfy museums and nations or groups that want cultural artifacts repatriated? And also maybe a more personal question, does your ethnic group or nation have any artifacts that you
feel should be repatriated? I’d love to hear any and all thoughts that you have in those
comments down below. Also, hey, if you liked
what you saw today, be sure to hit that Like button, also if you’re new here, be sure to subscribe. On top of all that you can
also go to roguerocket.com, and, or, just follow us on all the socials so you can stay up to date
on this story and more. But, with all that being said, my name’s Philip DeFranco, thank you for watching, and I’ll see you soon on the
next Rogue Rocket Deep Dive.

Glenn Chapman


  1. You guys forgot to mention the artifacts that were stolen from their homeland that were from non colonized states for example the British and French hold chinese artifacts stolen from their invasions of china and France carried out a raid on Korean in the 1800s and stole many artifacts they refuse to return. In this case it is similar to me stealing your phone and saying i wont give it back because its mine now.

  2. We need them in museums to spark interests in children . If you return artefacts in Egypt they cannot take care of them as the Smithsonian . And you talk about Greece , if a Greek find an artifact , he will bring and sell it to a private collector . If you want to get some artefacts back , raid billionaires houses of collectors. And more I listen , more I find the request ridiculous , Egypt Cairo museum is so full, they have hundreds of mummies piled in their basements

  3. for me, it really comes down to who it will go to and how it will be taken care of if in returning it gets destroyed or stolen you will lose preservation of historic artifacts

  4. I think they should request the artifacts temporarily to create a replica for show

  5. I'm in anthropology, so this is literally my wheelhouse. Yes, they should give back everything. It does not belong to you, it belongs to the culture from which it was stolen. You took it without permission, and you think that putting it on a special pedestal in a special room makes it yours now. It doesn't. Give it back.

  6. I work in a large museum that deals with many artifacts that are from First Nations people. The repat (repatriation) of these objects is particularly tricky as many of the objects are sacred. There is basically no paper trail for these object and although we work very hard to get them back to their tribes we need to know they are going back to the right people so no one gets very angry down the line. It is important to remember that the western museum philosophy is not ubiquitous. Native people generally think of there objects as having a sort of soul and they are meant to be used. They are not necessarily supposed to be conserved in perpetuity. Thus many of the objects would not be around if they weren’t in a museum collection. Does that justify the means for how the institution got them? I don’t know. But we have them now and I can tell you, it is one complicated job balancing the different exceptions of various nations, cultures and people.

    But always remember. Museums, in the modern context, are for everyone and you should go to them.

  7. I live who western countries think they can decide what’s Egypt, Turkish or Iraqi. These nations have a connection to their past even if they changed and western nation have even less claim than those countries every single time. Natives Egyptians, Turkish natives and middles eastern natives were not replaced or became mixed. Just because we speak Arabic or Turkish doesn’t mean that we are a different group and I’m getting sick of this myth that the Arabs or Turkish invasions replaced the natives of the countries they invaded. You think a small invading army would replace a whole nation. Language can change culture can change but unlike the Americans the Middle East was not wiped out and we still exist as the majority in our nations. Modern Egyptians may be mixed slightly than they used to be but that doesn’t negate our heritage same with Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Palestine. They are not different ethnic groups. as far as western museums keeping stolen artifacts I don’t care if they can be kept in better condition. I would rather it be returned and is put in bad condition than stay in England or the US.

  8. I fully understand countries wanting to have their artifacts back and reclaim their culture but at the same time I feel like they'd be doing a disservice to themselves. Having your culture and artifacts represented worldwide is giving people a chance to get an insight that they otherwise wouldn't have had unless they traveled to your country to see it.

  9. Regarding the Turkey argument you could say that the modern English are a different ethnic group to ancient Celtic culture and that Scotland or Ireland have a bigger right than England to those artifacts even though this argument isn’t very accurate because to this day the British largely descend from the ancient celts not German of danish invaders. This is why this argument about ethnic group is BS to me. It’s not accurate to history unlike the Americas most nations native ethnic group are not displaced as a minority and in fact still exist but often have different culture and languages than they used to because of the effects of the invading elites that ruled their country. Like does anyone think the Arabian peninsula with its tiny population especially in ancient times replaced all of North Africa and the Middle East.

  10. Scan them and get as much data / information as possible from artifacts. Create AR versions of them and just replace the artifacts with VR versions.
    If the artifacts get destroyed after they get sent back then there is still a copy.

  11. …asks a yes or no question… Then says in response to this there are basically two camps… Haha

  12. You want to see ancient marbles of parthenon in greece but you want to eat thai food in california.

  13. What's really crazy is that, just today, in my art history class, we had our in-class debate on this very subject. Pretty wild.

  14. Artifacts removed unlawful from the country of origin should be considered on loan with the stipulation that said country provides a good quality space to hold, preserve and possibly display said piece. Exception to illegally keep pieces are, if a piece will be destroyed by said country of origin then the piece will be assessed and bought by that museum at fair price plus interest(how ever long it was displayed) and marked as a protected artifact to indicate that said piece is in danger if returned to country/culture of origin. I have no idea what to do about the Vatican, they have so much stolen stuff I can’t imagine it going well for anyone.

  15. In many cases, you can display a culture etc with replicas made with 3d scans, you wouldn't have to worry then about having them behind glass and security, you could handle them and really see them.

  16. Virtual/augumented reality and 3d printing could make museums share artifacts basically instantly.

  17. In addition to this, y’all should talk about the issue with conservation in the art world. If an artist says their work should fall apart with time or be “moment specific,” should we attempt to conserve it against the artists intention? (Eva Hesse, some futurists, etc)

  18. I studied archaeology at university and did my thesis on politics in archaeology including repatriation and the illegal antiquities trade. Each artefacts story is so different that each one needs to be looked at individually. The conclusion you came to of artefacts being borrowed and shared being the way to go, I agree with. However, there is the constant need for extra insurance and transport issues associated with that. We want to expose people to other cultures. We want people to have their own artefacts. These two things are mutually exclusive, we can't do both. Museums around the world already share and borrow artefacts on a large scale, but this isn't easy when it comes to something like the Elgin Marbles. Having another museum borrow them all would be a no go, especially if Greece just got them back and would therefore feel protective. There is no over arching big answer to this. There can't be. The two counties in question have to talk and come to a diplomatic solution. The problem for the British museum for example is that if they did give back the Elgin marbles, they would then have to give back loads of other artefacts that other counties would ask for because a president would have been set, like the rosetta stone for example, a very important piece of Egyptian history. Then, their entire collection would just go, save the British stuff. That to me would be so sad to see. But I live 40 mins from the museum so, I'm biased. But I can also see why the Greeks would want their artefacts back, if I was Greek I probably would too… So yeah complex as you said and as for my opinion, I really don't have one. It's not for me to decide after all.

    OK so after reading loads of comments, a lot of people think that replicas and VR etc is the way to go. No. There is no substitute for the real thing. The museum in Athens already has replicas of the Elgin marbles made from detailed scans of the originals with permission from the British Museum. They aren't enough. The British Museum wouldn't be content with replicas either, it's not a solution to the problem. There is something magical and indescribable about seeing the real thing. At least, for history buffs like me. My spine tingles when I see real ancient artefacts. I cant go to the British Museum without looking at the rosetta stone it's… Agh it's just so beautiful. I can't describe the feeling. Yes maybe VR would be fine but, just fine. Not amazing, not breath taking.

    Lastly, Brian, you keep saying Elgin wrong. It's a hard G 😛

    Great video, loved seeing something I'm really interested in done on rogue rocket, thank you to Phil and the team.

  19. Just create replicas of desired artefacts and return the original. Problem solved.

  20. With how advanced 3D printing is now. I think there should be copies made of the artifacts so that yes they can be compared and show humans all around rhe world have never been as different as certain people think. And then as long as the country the artifacts came from have a safe place to put them where they will stay preserved (that was a professor of mine's biggest thing is talking about why certain museums need to keep rooms colder/earmer etc.) Then return them immediately.

  21. Why do nations want the artifacts back? Is it to keep people outside their borders from learning about their cultures? I mean, it's not like they don't still have most of the artifacts from their past.

  22. Artifacts belong in museums in developed nations that are powerful enough to protect the items, and have a good sense of human rights like UK, US, and France. Not countries like China and Russia

  23. I think it’s best to keep them in museums for the preservation of the artifacts and so they can be viewed by everyone , look at what happend in Iraq where isis destroyed tons of artifacts and museums

  24. We have 3d scanning tech and 3d printing tech. Scan the originals and send them back.

  25. If they can take care of them and keep them safe, I think I'd side with encyclopedic museums. It's a difficult argument with good points on both sides, though. I'm not fully content with my own opinion here. As an addendum, Turkey wanting stuff back that predates the Turks being in Turkey by thousands of years, or is Greek, is ridiculous.

  26. The artifacts should not be in just one museum. They should be moved from country to country around to world to be shared by the world, with tourism profits benefiting all participating museums, not the the ones in western societies

  27. I definitely noticed that History of Anatolia video

  28. No, these places aren't inaccessible to some people, it's western, everyone is allowed into these countries and into these museums. I get wanting some really important artifacts near you but also like, if say african countries get all their item's back.. Africa for the majority Actually is Not accessible to others and so you'd effectively isolate your history and culture. Like I love my viking heritage and while I don't believe we've been robbed in these ways I don't wish to keep all there is up here, I want others to see and learn

  29. Before watching, yes. 100% artifacts should return to their own countries. I would be okay with the touring of artifacts to other museums but they should be owned by the country of their origin.

  30. Artifacts belong to the world. We are a part of a global humanity and the opportunity to learn about our ancestorial cultures should be available to everyone, not just the country that already knows it’s own past culture.

  31. I feel that the museums in more developed and wealthy countries are better able to take care of artifacts so that they can be preserved, due to things such as more stable regimes, and better funding for such cultural preservation centers. If somewhere like Benin or Egypt has a revolution, the priceless, irreplaceable artifacts might end up destroyed by groups or sold to personal collectors, taken away from the public. I also believe that in more developed countries, there is more international/global connection, allowing for more people to experience these works, as part of shared human history, which is what putting them on display for the public is all about. Perhaps there could be a checklist for when a country such as somewhere like Benin is able to support artifacts from previous civilizations in their land and of their history, to then be given (back) where it originated from, which in my head might be something like you go to American museums to see American history, Egyptian museums for Egyptian history, etc., but then it becomes murky where the lines are drawn, like how far back is American history vs British history? The revolution? Because then anything before when the colonies had an identity and the movement towards independence would be British history, and it seems awkward to have revolutionary history be "owned" by the place the revolution was against. With the transport and sharing of artifacts, I would worry about damage to the items inbetween places.

    Also, I imagine something like a VR tour or website or some sort of internet-enabled exhibit that allows for people who might not be able to visit in person to be able to experience things.

  32. I would really like to see all the other hosts/narrators in the video, like we do in the videos hosted by Maria. I’d like to put a face to the voice!

  33. One that springs to mind for me is the battle of medway. Where the dutch navy deafeated the british and took the decorative stern piece of the english flagship with them as a trophy. Some people argue it should be returned to the british. But it's also very much a historic dutch trophy/token of our victory. Really feels like a case of which country holds more emotional value over an item.

  34. the opening argument is just a fantasy that isn't even vaguely justified. We live in a world of rapidly shrinking diversity, where cultures are exposed to the world, and vice versa, limiting the amount drift. The rest of this are lies we tell ourselves. Artifacts after about 100 years are not part of OUR culture, but echoes of our antecedents' culture. The wealth of artifacts does not come from who owns them, but from the lessons that should be learned by all peoples with these artifacts as an index point for each lesson.

  35. Remember that time when black/African people's were not considered human? Gtfo of here with this bs about "enriching all humanity". We're not stupid.

  36. >priceless ancient artifact is returned to corrupt third-world country
    >immediately stolen and replaced with a cheap fake

  37. It’s one thing if it’s in a museum. That I’m okay with, something I’m not okay with is Britain keeping the Kohinoor diamond. We don’t care that she’s the monarch, she was never our monarch, just the person that enslaved, looted and pillaged our land.

  38. I'm surprised more wasn't said regarding China and Europe. During the opium wars, massive amounts of artifacts and works of art were plundered from China and now displayed in the biggest museums in Europe. China has continuously asked for them back.
    A bit of a disappointing video. This is not a deep drive. Mention more specific artifacts, peculiar circumstances, individual country stances, private collections, some other outspoken individuals and organizations..
    This is like a brief overview. "Did you know people argue over museum artifacts?" Cool. Just pulling headlines and aggregating basic info.

  39. Just a quick one from Britain to America…it’s not pronounced “Eljin”, it’s Elgin. When describing a rifle, you wouldn’t say that it’s a jun…it’s a gun!

  40. OH HELL NO! Considering how politically and economically unstable the "ancient world" is, ancient artifacts are safer in the British Museum. If priceless artifacts were returned to their home countries, assuming they aren't soon stolen and sold on the back market, some Taliban, ISIS, or Muslim Brotherhood will destroy them. Make a list of the number of ancient cities and monuments that have been destroyed by utter shitbags around the world, then make a list of the number of ancient artifacts destroyed by the British Museum, and see which place is safer.

    The French and British have done more to uncover and learn about ancient societies than their erstwhile home countries. They have done a better job of preserving the past than the countries of the "ancient world". Are the British perfect? Did Victorian historians remove or cover up all the phalluses in Egyptian artifacts because they were so repressed and uptight? Yes, they did. But they are still better than the alternative.

  41. Some of the greatest cultural and historical artifacts that existed were in Syria and as ISIS spread those items and locations were destroyed, in Afghanistan the Taliban went to great efforts to destroy ancient Buddhist statues because of religious fanaticism. I feel that if your nation or region is deemed unstable or that you have insufficient security and public access to all cultures religions and sexual orientations then you should not have those items they belong to the world and your nation and region is simply unable to protect them for future generation.

  42. Maybe a solution in some cases could be replicas of thise items where the people of the culture the artifact comes from want repatriation. If those people want their artifact to stay in a museum, great, otherwise whats wrong with a replica with a plaque stating where the actual item can be found? Sharing of culture without keeping that culture from the very people who made it and want it back

  43. I think, unless a nation says a foreign museum can house their artefacts, they should not be allowed to keep them. Countries like Mexico don't have really culturally important artefacts because they're kept somewhere in European museums by the nations who occupied them in the past, and the Mexican museums are forced to display copies of their own cultural treasures. I think that's pretty messed up, to be honest. And it's always this kind of thing, poorer or underdeveloped countries have their cultural artefacts stolen by European nations and then cannot get them back even despite decades or centuries of pleading. Think of how many important Egyptian artefacts now sit in museums thousands of kilometres from their place of origin.

    If an encyclopedic museum wants to display other nations' treasures, they can display replicas, I think, because it achieve the same thing. Or they can receive things on loan for a year or two, if they manage to strike a deal.

    Museums keeping other nations' treasures without consent remains one of the few powerful ties to a really dark past of conquering underdeveloped nations and abusing their sovereign rights.

  44. Imagine someone broke into your house with guns, forced you to accept their presence there and took your family heirlooms while they were there. Then they finally leave and you get your badly damaged house back and it takes you years to try and make it even half as nice as it was before they showed up. And they keep your shit. Call that legal?

  45. If the country that a universal museum is located cannot prove the artifacts were produced by their culture. Then the artifacts should either be returned or held in trust. One of the worst offenders was the British Empire who routinely looted all countries they conquered.

  46. my question is can they protect said items or does the risk increase once they are returned.

  47. I think if museums could somehow not favor the western world and share artifacts across the board it would be great, and if any unrest happens in the area of a collection (who's to say crazies won't one day take over the Louvre? Or the examples from vid) then the other museums could request things to be sent to more stable areas

  48. Nope. Returned artifacts are more at risk being returned to their areas of origin.
    Had the Elgin Marbles remained where they were (the Acropolis – used as a arsenal store for gunpowder which had exploded which is why the Parthenon was in a ruined state in the first place) would have been even more damaged than they are.
    And the "damage" to the marbles was the most advanced restoration techniques of the period. Too, Greece is absolutely not in a position to properly care for the artifacts when they are still in such an economically unstable position. Look to the devastating 2018 fire at the National Museum of Brazil for an example of what happens when a "modern and capable nation" just doesn't bother to fund their museums.
    The question becomes even more moot when it comes to nations ruled by cultures that actively suppress their past iterations.
    A great example is the cultural purges of China. How many millions of statues, temples, books, carvings, jewelry etc were reduced to rubble and scrap? Or repatriating Buddhist portraiture and Orthodox religious treatises to Taliban ruled Afghanistan?
    Museums would literally be handing over pieces of history to be either destroyed or sold for profit (again).
    And this isn't just hyperbole: Greece, Italy, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, China, Japan, Egypt etc have all had items returned to them, promises of artifacts being ensconced in institutions for the public, only for them to be sold or stolen or discarded when that region had a shift in policy or a financial crisis or a period of political/social instability.
    (And no, it doesn't matter, in this context, that the colonialist practices of Western museums home countries are the root causes of so much instability in the first place – the issue is if there is a net benefit to returning the artifacts)
    The risk of losing artifacts, forever, is far too great a risk if they are repatriated.

  49. It really depends, like, it's especially complicated in situations like with the Turks and Priam's Treasure, technically the artifacts originated there, but it wasn't created by the people who live there now; it's hard to say what the right move is in that circumstance. I think my biggest problem is that no one has a right to another culture's items. Like sure it would be great if we could see things from every culture in one place, but some of these things are sacred, some of what was stolen are literally dead loved ones! I don't care about getting see something like that if the people that it's sacred to want it back.

  50. Museums should share profits to countries where artifacts were taken from, spread knowledge and economic benefits.

  51. I have no answer, bit can we just kick destroyers of artifacts in the nuts repeatedly until they bored to death?

    …yes I feel passionately about these losses.

  52. Hey Phil, can you do an interview with Andrew Yang. I'm curious if he can win with his policies. Please and thank you.

  53. My answers were No and No…I enjoyed this story but it wasn't anything new to me. I think they do more good where there are.

  54. 1. Create an international agency/union consisting of museums with standardized capabilities and in stable/safe areas.
    2. Build compliant museums in safe but underserved areas.
    3. Build up a significant logistic link between said museums.
    4. Systematically rotate themed collections amongst those museums; which would probably take a few years.
    5. ????
    6. Non-profit.

  55. I remember talking to my Uncle who collects antique arms and armor from the medieval era, when I asked him if he wanted to do Tate his collection he said that he didn’t, he felt an attachment to them and wanted to pass them on

  56. i never comment before watching a full video but to answer the title; yes .

  57. Artifacts from museums, no, Artifacts from private collections, Yes. The very act of transportation is a great risk to the artifacts themselves. the potential for theft, damage, or loss, especially when transporting over seas, is unreasonably in most cases. Preserving the artifacts is a greater concern than the geographic location it is stored at. As for sharing cultural artifacts, a possible solution to the expansion of museums, is authentic replicas (not forgeries, but explicitly listed as a replica). this would allow for larger and more complete collections in more places.

  58. "It belongs in a museum."
    -Indiana Jones

    Seriously though I think this discussion is silly and will kill cultural exchange.

  59. My feeling is that the vast majority of the time repatriation is the only morally right thing to do. To say 'not until you can look after them' or 'they were bought and paid for' when items were taken during periods of colonial rule, reflects the bias of the colonizer. I live in Canada, which has its own history of taking artifacts (and children) for 'safe keeping' or 'greater good' or other justifications that are equally flimsy in the face of violated treaties and cultural destruction. Perhaps these items sitting in museums would not have been preserved, but that doesn't mean it was appropriate for them to be taken. Using that as an excuse is paternalistic. That there is argument over human remains is appalling to me.

    I do agree that there are definitely problems with establishing precisely where some items should be returned. While the political system in Greece has changed dramatically since the Parthenon marbles were removed, there isn't much doubt as to where they would go if (and hopefully when) they are returned. In other places it's not so clear due to shifting borders and population migration. My inclination is to say geographic location (as if they had been dug up today) is probably the most fair, but the line between occupation and shifting political borders is grey at best. I can see why some collections would look at politically volatile parts of the world and think that repatriation might be a mistake. It could legitimize a political regime that came to power by illegitimate means. It could be seen as taking a side in an ongoing conflict, such as Isreal/Palistine. But whether or not the items would be 'safe' isn't the reason for holding off there. It's to stay outside of the political mess going on there.

    One thing your deep dive here is missing is some non-European voices. I realize the academia is rather heavily skewed towards white men, but I would have liked to hear interviews directly with people from the places/of the cultures who are asking for repatriation. You did a fair job at presenting the issue as multifaceted, but ultimately it's still the voice of a white man.

  60. Artifacts in countries suitably stable enough should be returned (like the Elgin marbles or the Moai). On the other hand, artifacts coming from countries with extremely unstable political climates must not be returned or they risk getting destroyed. The tragic loss of Iraqi and Syrian artifacts from the dawn of human civilization during the rise of ISIS is one such example. There are numerous other examples, like priceless artifacts getting destroyed in Egypt, Mauritius, or Afghanistan. Usually at the hands of Islamists who view them as idolatrous. Also Turkey has no right to Byzantine artifacts. Not after the genocide they committed to Anatolian Greeks and Armenians after they conquered Turkey.

  61. If the country that wants their items back isn’t able to safely transport it, display it, and secure it so that it doesn’t deteriorate or get ruined/stolen, then that country shouldn’t get it back UNTIL they can. Safety for those priceless items is very important.

  62. I don't wanna be a cunt, but if Many of these Mesopotamian artifacts would've been destroyed if they were in their country of origin. Take it ad you will, I'm just happy they were not.

  63. Interesting topic. and this only scratched the surface, for example you only have to look at the sad case of the Persian Princess where when it appeared that it was a historical mummy everyone wanted it, then when it turned out to be a tragic modern murder victim (still unidentified) which was made to look like an authentic piece and sold as a such, then Nobody wanted her (funny that right?)

  64. Please record your experts and interviewees in rooms with as little echo as possible. It's sad that I don't want to hear what he is saying with that echo as I'm sure he's saying something important on this interesting topic.

  65. No & No.
    I think it's silly for a country to "claim ownership" of something just because a deal was made with their governing power at the time. Sure, it may not seem fair that the museum gets to make money off of it, but somebody has to pay for the upkeep of the museum – all that shit isn't free. People like to ignore that. This speaks to a bigger issue I feel, of people saying they're the "natives" to a foreign land and acting like the current day inhabitants are "foreigners." The most blatant example of this, being an American, is the thoughts that "Native Americans" are the true natives, and everybody else is a foreigner. I call "horseshit" on this concept, all land, culture, etc. was raped, pillaged, plundered, and stolen from somebody else at one point or another, and when this happens the cultures generally diffused and it created diversity and then new culture was born. The world is just a forever mixing pot of cultures & moving certain artifacts from certain locations in certain time periods so others can admire their beauty & meaning shouldn't be a taboo. Just my $.02, I know it's not a popular opinion.

  66. even artifacts that were aquired "legally" it was when the original country was in a weak state and had no means to stop that 'legal' transaction. sure they are "legal" but if the artifact's original country had enough power back then, the 'legal' would have never happened.

  67. I feel that with technology being at the state it is today, it is completely possible to return artefacts to countries they were taken from yet still enjoy them.
    I mean, most countries that want their artefacts back, actually have the resources to take care of them. Also with the advent of the internet and virtual tours, it is very much possible to enjoy them from the comfort of your home. You don't need to be physically present at any location to see the artefact anymore. Most of the time, they are behind glass cases that you're not allowed to touch, so unless you have special privileges, the experience would not be the same.

    I remember playing Assassin's Creeds Origins and just being in awe of living in ancient Egypt, hearing the dialogue in Arabic and just exploring in general. I've been to Egypt before and I have visited the pyramids as well as the museums. As a casual student of history, it was quite enlightening to have a context to the things I saw in that museum. Now obviously, no Assassin's Creed game is historically accurate, but with the right investment from governments into the right organizations, we could bring out similar experiences for people.

    I feel that we should leave artefacts to the people whom they belong to as well as academics who can study them well. The rest of us mere mortals can appreciate an experience that is close, yet still a little more contextual.

  68. My solution to it is fairly simple honestly. Using now fairly reasonably costed and wildly available technology, all artifacts, anywhere, should be scanned. Both for digital reproduction and for the creation of facsimiles for use in non-native museums. Any artifacts that can be repatriated safely, with reasonable assurances of their protection, should be returned or held in trust until such time that they could be safely removed.

    This way, the cultural artifacts can still be displayed world wide, either in presentations, or online virtually, studied in great detail and preserved, while also giving people connections with their own past.

  69. Your history of Greece and assertion that Ottomans were just an "occupying power" is inaccurate and unfairly poisons the well. There had never really been an independent Greek state, with its history being rival, disunified city-states, then a region of the Roman Empire, then a region of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire, then a region of the Ottoman Empire. At no point was there ever an independent Greece until the 19th century

  70. People thinking that artifacts from history belong to anyone are fucking stupid. those peoples are dead and long gone. Museums help to spread that knowledge and oversensitive asshats are trying to suppress that to exploit your feelings for tourism money.

  71. Initial Answer: No
    Post Video Answer: No

    Righting historical injustices is a fantastically stupid idea because no matter who is involved, if you go back far enough everyone owes everyone else something. Specifically when it comes to the cultural items held in museums no one alive can claim ownership of the items except the people currently in possession of them. Except for a very small percentage of the items they didn't "belong" to anyone in particular until they were excavated or recovered from lost sites.

  72. Don't forget Indy left the stone for that village, so not everything belongs in a museum.

  73. It depends, in the case of the paintings and personal items stolen from the Jewish people during the holocaust that still have living relatives then I think it should go back to those people. However in the case of the marbles where the sculptures don't belong to any individuals, I don't believe the museums have any responsibility to return them.

  74. Just saw this video the other day, very similar in an interesting way: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5i1PxlZOdU

  75. A topic that my classical history teacher brings up which tends to destroy a lot of these arguments is that virtually all artifacts that Europeans took home were items that were pretty much rotting away in their homelands. Both in Greece and Egypt and as far as South Africa and Polynesia these items were usually discarded by the natives, with Europeans sometimes having to rescue important artifacts, like what often happened with mummies in Egypt. If people are so mad about their artifacts ending up in European musea then they should be mad towards their ancestors not properly taking care of their property, not to the Europeans that most likely are the sole reason that their artifacts even survive to this day.

    My country, the Netherlands, has these type of "artifacts" filling half the world's musea. A lot of them are paintings, but also include artisan products that were bought or a lot of early medieval coinage from our time as a big trade depot (Dorestad). If we are going to go the way of (semi-) Third World countries and demand everything back then a lot of musea are going to feel pretty empty real soon.

  76. This might seems stupid but why aren't duplicates done? I mean with the technology now, we could create duplicates of all artifacts and send the originals back, so that museums can still show what they look like, even if they are duplicates. After all, if it is only for people to see them, as you can't touch, then duplicates, pictures, 3D models and so on would permit you to SEE them and still have the "original" owners have them in their country.

  77. As soon as I learnt about the Elgin marbles I was oh dear can we please return them. It is very weird getting a tour of a museum in France and like every other thing in here acquired cough cough stolen by Napoleon, or in Italy where they have to be like this is part of collection the rest was stolen by insert name (usually Napoleon). I personally think some circumstances yes definitely return artefacts but its a very very case by case thing. However I do love the sharing idea – it would be great for study of the artefacts for students and academics around the world being able tp study something they've seen.

  78. This is just a little anecdote but I am from London and i used to study A-Level archaeology (this no longer exists) and my teacher knew someone involved in a diplomatic blunder in which they invited political and archaeological people from Greece and the Greek government. they held a dinner in the hall where the marbles are held and after dinner allowed the diplomats to get up and touch these statues. This is a blunder because you aren't supposed to touch them – our palms produce oil that causes damage when these things are touched.

    However there is the a museum in oxford called the Ashmolean. They held an artefact (it was a stone face if I remember rightly) from Palmyra – and were in negotiations to return it before Isis destroyed it. meaning the fact that the museum had not returned it led to the existence of something that would not have survived.

  79. There was a place in Sweden that had a totem pole taken from a Canadian Aboriginal tribe…it was only returned in 2006

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