Thor Heyerdahl Jr with the governor of Rapa Nui, Tarita Alarcon Rapu, at Chile's national library in Santiago

Kon-Tiki Museum to repatriate thousands of Easter Island artefacts

Alex Stevens, 04.04.2019
Agreement signed during Norwegian state visit to Chile
Thousands of artefacts in the collection of Norway’s Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo are to be repatriated to Easter Island, after an agreement was signed between museum representatives and Chile’s culture ministry during a Norwegian state visit to Santiago.

The items taken from the island, which is known as Rapa Nui, include human bones and carved artefacts, according to the AFP news agency.

They were brought to Norway after two expeditions by explorer Thor Heyerdahl, in 1955 and 1986.

At the ceremony in the National Library, Santiago, the explorer’s son, Thor Heyerdahl Jr, reportedly said the move was “a fulfilment of my father's promise to the Rapa Nui authorities that the objects would be returned after they had been analysed”.

The ceremony was attended by the governor of Rapa Nui, Tarita Alarcon Rapu, the Norwegian foreign minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, the director of the Kon-Tiki Museum, Martin Biehl, and the Chilean minister of culture, arts and heritage, Consuelo Valdés.

In November last year a delegation from Rapa Nui led by Alarcon Rapu visited the British Museum to discuss the return of a Moai statue, called Hoa Hakananai’a, that is held by the museum and was taken from the island by the British navy without permission in 1868.

In a statement at the time, the Museums Association said: “The three key principles of the Code of Ethics for Museums are: public benefit and engagement; collections stewardship; and individual and institutional integrity. All three of these principles should apply in cases of claims for repatriation or restitution from museum collections.

“The specific guidance on repatriation urges museums to deal sensitively and promptly with any requests, both within the UK and from abroad.”

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