Smithsonian updates collection policy to promote ethical returns
Via The Washington Post, May 3, 2022
A year after it set out to review its collection practices, the Smithsonian has decided it will allow shared ownership of items and the return of objects for ethical rather than legal reasons.
In the case of colonial-era objects, it is no longer enough to say “we didn’t steal it,” Smithsonian officials now believe. In addition, the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of the American Indian will apply the federal law dictating the treatment of Native American remains to other human remains in their collections.
“We are codifying what is becoming contemporary museum practice. More and more, we are seeing museums sharing authority of the things we possess and their interpretation, and that requires engagement with their originating communities,” said Kevin Gover, the Smithsonian’s undersecretary for museums and culture, who noted that this approach has been used at the American Indian Museum and the Anacostia Community Museum for many years.