Stealing Culture: Repatriation of Human Remains in University Collections
University Museums and Collections Journal, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2019
Posted: 28 Feb 2021
Date Written: 2019
What happens when a museum unknowingly, or knowingly, has human remains and/or related cultural objects in their collection? Who should be held accountable? What are some legal ramifications for keeping the objects versus the repatriation of these collections? How does the museum start the repatriation process?
Historically human remains have been an accepted part of university museum collections for research, teaching, and display. However, with a recent heightened awareness, and questions surrounding ownership of cultural objects, the discussion of repatriation, especially of human remains, is timely. Crawford and Jackson use the United States’ Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) as the framework for a discussion and formation of an international policy for repatriation of human remains and related cultural objects. They accomplish this by focusing the workshop’s discussion on the specific policies and procedures governing university museums as they deal with the issues of human remains within their collections.
As part of their long-term collaboration focusing on how criminal law can affect museums, Crawford brings specialized knowledge in museum policy and administration as well as a background in commercial art galleries and auction houses. Jackson brings specialized knowledge in the criminal justice system, criminal investigations, and policy analysis.
Keywords: NAGPRA, repatriation, university museums, criminal law, art law
JEL Classification: I23, I28, K39, K14, K19, K49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation