International Repatriation Resource: Routes to Return

Routes to Return is a new web resource providing information to aid those interested in understanding pathways for international repatriations from European museums.

The website “aims to open up global networks, share information, and enable international repatriation”

Currently the website has resources for communities to learn about European repatriation landscapes and will soon have resources for museums, as well.

Check out the website here:


Deadline extended to October 15: Call for Editor, Museum Anthropology

The Council for Museum Anthropology, a section of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), invites
nominations (including self-nominations) for the position of Co-Editor of its journal, Museum Anthropology. The
three-year term begins January 1, 2024. The deadline for nominations is October 15th, 2023. We welcome
applications from individuals willing to join the current editor, Alice Stevenson.

Museum Anthropology seeks to be a leading voice for scholarly research on the collection, interpretation, and
representation of the material world. Through critical articles, provocative commentaries, and thoughtful reviews,
this peer-reviewed journal aspires to cultivate vibrant dialogues that reflect the global and trans-disciplinary work of
museums. Situated at the intersection of practice and theory, Museum Anthropology advances our knowledge of the
ways in which material objects are intertwined with living histories of cultural display, economics, socio-politics, law,
memory, ethics, colonialism, conservation, and public education.

The incoming CMA Co-Editor will contribute to the publication of a journal that enriches and diversifies scholarly and
professional environments by: (1) soliciting high-quality manuscript submissions and peer-reviews from a diversity of
experts in relevant fields (2) maintaining academically rigorous and ethical standards of publication, and timely
management of review and submission to Wiley of manuscripts (3) constructively working with AAA Publications and
Wiley staff. The Co-Editor will serve as a non-voting member of the Council for Museum Anthropology Board,
providing annual reports to CMA’s members at its Business Meeting and participating in quarterly Board Meetings.
Full responsibilities of the Editors are outlined in the CMA’s By-Laws:

Nominations should include a CV and Letter of Interest that attest to a strong record of scholarship in the field of
Museum Anthropology and excellent organizational, editorial and project management skills. Applications are
welcome from individuals based in academic institutions, cultural institutions, NGOs, community organizations or
independent scholars. The ability to assemble resources to assist with the production of the journal–such as
assistants or interns, and/or support for the time commitment from a supervisor, Chair or Dean—is an asset. This is a
volunteer position, with some funds to support membership and travel to the annual AAA conference.

The current editors, Hannah Turner and Alice Stevenson
(, are available for questions from colleagues interested in the position.

Nominations, self-nominations, and inquiries should be sent to W. Warner (Bill) Wood, CMA President
( Members of the search committee include Bill Wood, Sowparnika Balaswaminathan, Alice
Stevenson and Hannah Turner.

Call for Papers Reminder: The Society for Applied Anthropology, Santa Fe, March 26-30, 2024

The Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) invites abstracts (sessions, papers, posters, and videos) for the Program of the 84th Annual Meeting in Santa Fe, NM, March 26-30, 2024. The theme of the Program is “Enchantment and Transformation.”

The 2024 SfAA Annual Meeting offers researchers, practitioners, and students from diverse disciplines and organizations the opportunity to discuss their work and consider how it can contribute to a better future. SfAA members come from a host of disciplines — anthropology, geography, sociology, economics, business, planning, medicine, nursing, law, and more. The annual meeting provides a fertile venue in which to trade ideas, methods, and practical solutions, as well as an opportunity to enter the lifeworlds of other professionals.

The deadline for abstract submission is October 15, 2023.

More here.

Climate Protesters Were Coming, So the Gardner Museum Locked Down

Via The New York Times, 8 September 2023

On Thursday evening, the doors abruptly closed at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Officials had learned that climate protesters were planning a visit during the hours when the cultural institution offers free admission.

The activist group Extinction Rebellion had posted on social media earlier in the day, saying this would be its second attempt at visiting the museum. “This is a peaceful field trip without the risk of arrest,” the invitation said.

In March, demonstrators had tried to stage a “guerrilla art installation” that would have involved inserting their own images into empty picture frames at the museum, an action intended to draw attention to the loss of biodiversity. But the event also would have fallen on the same day as the infamous art heist at the Gardner 33 years earlier, and executives were nervous about security risks and decided to close the museum. Protesters instead carried flags and red banners, staging a “die-in” near the museum’s entrance.

On Thursday, the museum’s director, Peggy Fogelman, wrote a public note to explain the second sudden closure in six months. “These frames are not only important and fragile historic objects in their own right, but they memorialize the tragic 1990 theft that deprived our public of the opportunity to enjoy unique masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer and others,” she wrote. “It is heartbreaking to associate the painful reminder of this loss with any scenario that would jeopardize the frames themselves or the experience of our staff and visitors.”

International outcry at dismissal of prominent Polish museum director

Via The Art Newspaper, 8 September 2023

Museum professionals have reacted with dismay to the news that the respected director, Joanna Wasilewska, has been dismissed from the Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw, Poland. Wasilewska was formally notified of her removal on 5 September, with the decision taken by regional politicians in the Masovian Voivodeship, the province centred on the Polish capital.

Strenuously denying the claims made against her, including the suggestion of financial irregularities, Wasilewska argues that her dismissal is part of a political power play ahead of national Parliamentary elections taking place on 15 October, as well as being a “punishment” for having resisted interference from political leaders during her tenure.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper, Wasilewska says that the “reasons given for my dismissal are mostly weak and some even ridiculous; no serious financial irregularities could be found.” She adds that, “for a couple of years I opposed interference in the museum’s internal affairs, such as the appointment of deputy directors against my choices and without competence for the position.”

Echoing comments by other eminent figures, Guido Gryseels, the honorary director general of Belgium’s Museum for Central Africa, says that Wasilewska’s dismissal is a “shameful move”, adding, “You do not expect this sort of political interference and disrespect for labour laws to happen in an EU member state.”

Wasilewska had been due to take on the role of chair of the European Ethnography Museum Directors’ Group (EEMDG), but her appointment as well as an upcoming meeting for the group in Warsaw can now no longer go ahead.

Nicholas Thomas, the director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, who is currently convenor for the EEMDG, says that “the cultural sector in Poland will have been undermined” by the removal of “an effective museum leader, well-regarded by colleagues across Europe.”

An online petition launched in Poland to defend Wasilewska, signed by over 800 people, is particularly critical of the fact that her removal has been instigated by political parties currently in opposition at a national level. Given that the ruling Law and Justice government has itself been repeatedly accused of overbearing interference in the cultural sector, the petition notes that the case undermines “our trust in the promises and declarations of the opposition parties, from whom we have expected to cease the attacks on experts, scholars and cultural professionals and hoped for substantive cooperation in the fields of science and culture.”

Wasilewska, who has initiated a lawsuit against her dismissal, says that, “It is painful to have to say that my own country is a place where such things are going on—but they do. Despite that, there are still so many wonderful people in the museum sector in Poland, fighting this reality.”

Manchester Museum Returns 174 Artifacts to Indigenous Australians

Via Smithsonian Magazine, 7 September 2023

At a ceremony on Tuesday, the Manchester Museum in England returned more than 170 artifacts originally belonging to the Anindilyakwa, an Indigenous Australian group.

The collection includes a number of everyday objects—including dolls, baskets, a map made from turtle shells and more—that represent the Anindilyakwa people’s rich history and culture. Per a statement from the museum, the return comes after several years of conversations with the Anindilyakwa Land Council and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

“The return of these significant cultural heritage items is important for Australia’s reconciliation process,” says Stephen Smith, the Australian high commissioner to the United Kingdom, in the museum’s statement. “It also helps renew cultural practices and safeguard such practices and items for future generations.”

The 14 clans that make up the Anindilyakwa community live on Groote Eylandt, an archipelago off the northern coast of Australia. The artifacts were acquired in the 1950s by an anthropology PhD student, Peter Worsley, who conducted fieldwork on Groote Eylandt and eventually became a professor at the University of Manchester. During his research, Worsley lived alongside the Anindilyakwa people, purchasing and trading for objects in the collection.

“My understanding is that [Worsley] was building relationships with the Anindilyakwa people, and I like to think he would view this as an extension of the work he started,” Esme Ward, the director of the Manchester Museum, tells the Guardian’s Mark BrownWorsley’s daughter, who attended the ceremony, says he would be “so thrilled” to see the return.

Anindilyakwa representatives say that the artifacts will help pass on cultural heritage to younger members of their community.

More here.

Can She Revive One of the Largest Museums on the African Continent?

Via The New York Times, 15 August, 2023

Koyo Kouoh wasn’t thinking about becoming an art world player when she finished her degree in business administration in Zurich in her early 20s. She had a day job as a social worker attending to migrant women, was writing articles about cultural events, and hanging out with a group of avant-garde thinkers, artists, musicians and actors.

But 30 years on, Kouoh, 55, the visionary curator and executive director of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (known as Zeitz MOCAA) in Cape Town, is an internationally recognized, torch-bearing advocate for African art that is grounded on the continent, but very much part of a global conversation.

“I want to show the expanse of culture, the vast history of how the continent and its diaspora inhabits the world,” Kouoh, who is Cameroonian-born, said in the first of several Zoom calls during her travels between Basel, the United States and Cape Town over the last months. “Humanity has always described itself through objects and pictures; I am interested in what kinds of stories and paradigms we are offering about ourselves.”

Zeitz MOCAA, which houses the contemporary African art collection of Jochen Zeitz, the German philanthropist and chief executive officer of Harley-Davidson, is one of the largest museums on the African continent. A spectacular transformation of an old grain silo in Cape Town’s port area by the British designer Thomas Heatherwick, the museum forms part of the high-end development quarter known as the V & A Waterfront, which paid for the building. At its opening in 2017, the museum was greeted with fanfare for its design and celebration of African art, but also criticism for its perceived elitism and disengagement from local communities.

More here. 

Report highlights how museums can tell inclusive histories in polarised times

Via Museums Association, 7 September 2023

New research has been published exploring how museums can explore complex and divisive histories in an era of increasing polarisation.

Produced by British Future, a charity that researches public attitudes in issues such as immigration and identity, the report is entitled Inclusive Histories: Narrating our Shared Past in Polarised Times.

It responds to the growing interest in reexamining perceptions of British history, particularly since the anti-racism protests of 2020.

“Initiatives to promote inclusive histories have themselves often faced a range of critiques,” states the report. “This polarisation has then been further amplified by shifting political and media dynamics which influence the pace and intensity of public conversation.”

The report makes clear that “it would be a significant mistake for organisations to lean out of these debates, or to define the success of inclusive history work as the avoidance of controversy”, and that avoidance of such topics also carries risks as the public appetite to learn about these histories grows stronger.

“Rather, within a context where criticism of this work has become more intense, organisations will need to be better prepared to step up, deepen and extend their work on inclusive histories with confidence,” the report adds.

The research features insights and examples of good practice through which cultural organisations have successfully navigated polarised responses and defused cultural conflicts.

Stakeholders featured in the report include Luke Syson, director of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, Sandra Shakespeare, founder of the Black history institution Museum X, and professor Corinne Fowler of Leicester University, whose 2020 research into links to slavery and empire at National Trust properties was met with an intense backlash.

It sets out eight “conditions for confidence” that aim to support strategic and practical thinking for organisations to engage in and navigate these heated debates.

More here. 

Report here.