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.

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