Cases of Restitution

Tuesday, 22 June 2:15 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. (CET)

The debate on the restitution of collections that were acquired during the German colonial period has received widespread publicity in recent years and has been increasingly taken up in museums and politics. Claims for restitution from countries of origin were already being made to European states after the independence of the former colonies, but it is only in recent years that a political change seems to be getting underway. There is largely general consensus on the restitution of human remains from collections in German museums to the countries of origin. In contrast, the discussion on the restitution of ritual or historically sensitive objects has only just begun.

Provenance research projects can bring new dynamics into already existing restitution claims or provoke new ones. They aim to clarify the origin and circumstances of acquisitions of objects. Who ultimately decides on restitution and which interest groups are involved in the process? What happens when questions remain unanswered? To whom and to where should objects be restituted? What role can and should local communities play in restitution processes? If cultural property was illegitimately or unethically removed, is restitution to today’s understanding the only solution or are alternative paths more appropriate in certain cases? Are further steps required alongside and after restitution?

The panel will examine specific cases of restitution regarding their entanglements and challenges from different perspectives. The chosen examples are at different stages, which show the complexity of negotiation processes and the diverse meanings and conditions of restitutions.


Chair: Larissa Förster, German Lost Art Foundation