PPRC21 Pickering

The more distant a collection is from its cultures of origin, the harder it is to apply culturally appropriate processes for its use and management. This is of particular impact in the area of repatriation. While collections managers may have close relationships with certain communities that have been the subject of their personal research, they often have little detailed knowledge of other distant cultures and communities. As a result, when working on a repatriation issue they are often at a loss to know where to start and what to watch out for.
This paper describes the general methodologies applied in the repatriation of central Australian secret/sacred objects as applied at the National Museum of Australia. This should serve as an introductory guide to foreign collectors and collecting institutions seeking to initial repatriation of such objects.


Dr Michael Pickering is Senior Repatriation Advisor with the National Museum of Australia. He is an Honorary Associate Professor with the Centre of Heritage and Museum Studies, Australian National University, and a member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. He is on the editorial boards of the journals 'Museum Management and Curatorship' and ‘Museums and Social Issues’. Pickering’s research interests and publications include archaeology, anthropology, material culture, cannibalism, settlement patterns, exhibitions, ethics and repatriation.

Dr. Michael Pickering

Senior Repatriation Advisor, National Museum of Australia;
Honorary Associate Professor, Centre of Heritage and Museum Studies, Australian National University