The Benin bronzes are among the most famous contested artefacts held by UK institutions. Image: plaques from Benin City at British Museum, Wikimedia Commons

Arts council seeks expert to produce guidance on repatriation

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 17.01.2020
Supplier will be asked to create up-to-date resource for museums
Arts Council England (ACE) is looking for an expert to support the organisation in its approach to restitution and repatriation.

An advert posted this week for the 24-month, £42,000 contract states that the arts council is seeking a supplier to “provide new guidance for the UK museum sector on the restitution and repatriation of cultural objects”. 

“The overarching aim of this work is to create a comprehensive and practical resource for museums to support them in dealing confidently and proactively with all aspects of restitution,” it continues. 

The resource will replace the most recent sector guidance on repatriation, which was published by the now-defunct Museums and Galleries Commission in 2000 and is now “out of print and very out of date”.   

The advert acknowledges the “significant government, public and press interest and increasing calls for action by UK museums and sector bodies to address this agenda”. 

The work will involve extensive consultation and a review of existing research to “identify key challenges, opportunities, practical and ethical issues and examples of best practice in the UK and internationally”. 

The deadline for applications is 31 January.  

The advert comes as the arts council prepares to publish its next 10-year strategy later this month and is an indication of the growing status of decolonisation and repatriation on the arts council’s agenda. It is part of a wider movement in the sector to address the issue: other initiatives include a working group set up by the Museums Association to produce guidance on decolonising museum collections. 

Meanwhile, ACE has also integrated its museums and collections and cultural property departments, creating a new Museums, Collections and Cultural Property team, which is led by the organisation’s existing director of museums and cultural property, Kate Bellamy. 

She will be joined by Liz Johnson, who has been appointed to the new role of director, museums collection development and West Midlands. Johnson previously worked as a relationship manager and project manager at the arts council, and is returning to the organisation from a senior role at the National Trust. 

Recruitment is under way for a director, cultural property and investment centre, the third and final role in the leadership group that will guide the new team and provide “strategic leadership alongside the modernisation of services and functions”. 

Johnson said: “I feel really honoured and excited to be returning to work at the arts council as the museums and cultural property team enters a new era.”

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