Glasgow City Council has voted to return a number of cultural artefacts from its museum collections, including the repatriation of seven Indian antiquities, in a move which is the first of its kind from a UK museum.
Six of the artefacts were stolen from Hindu temples and shrines during the 19th century, while the seventh was illegally purchased, sold and smuggled out of India. All seven items were subsequently gifted to the city’s museum collection.
The Indian government has agreed to meet the full cost of the return of the artefacts, and a meeting is planned this month to consider the logistical issues including export licenses and potential costs.
The council has also agreed to return 17 bronze Benin artefacts to Nigeria, having established that the objects were taken from ancestral altars at the Royal Court of Benin during the British Punitive Expedition of 1897. The cost of returning the artefacts is estimated to be around £30,000 and discussions continue on the most cost-effective way to repatriate them, bearing in mind other repatriation requests currently being considered by other UK museums.
Finally, Glasgow will fund the repatriation of 25 Lakota cultural items that were sold and donated to the city’s museum collection by George Crager in 1892. Some of these items were taken from the Wounded Knee Massacre site following the battle in December 1890, some were personal items belonging to named ancestors, and the remainder are ceremonial items, all of which represent the belief, history and values of the Oceti Sakowin.
The cost of repatriation to the Le Beau family, who are representing the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe, could cost as much as £40,000.