Confiscating Cultures?

By June 15, 20172017, Europe

The weight of the historical achievements of architecture, sculpture, engineering, technology and art can be felt in many great museums, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum in London. The feeling that all of these artifacts that formed cultural and societal development throughout the world were in one place for me to experience was a great and exciting sensation, which I felt very prominently as I walked through halls filled with various specimens from long-lost cultures of Europe and Asia.

Victoria & Albert Museum (Courtesy of website)

However, this sense of awe was overshadowed by a question of ownership that had been brought up earlier in our week in London and before the trip. It deals with the fact that some of the artifacts in these museums may be have been stolen for the museums without  taking into account the significance of those objects to the countries that they were from, such as the many Egyptian mummies in the British Museum.

I think the issue has more complexities than simply robbed artifacts, such as legitimately acquiring items through trade, purchase or quite possibly to preserve them to name a few, and it is often not an issue of larger powers robbing from others. I also cannot discount the incredible value of having all of those pieces in one place to study and for the world to come and see. However, in a time where most countries can easily access other ones for research and travel, I wonder whether or not it is necessary to continue to uproot historical landmarks and objects from their cultural context. This is the question I will wrestle with as I travel throughout the rest of Europe, encountering more cultures and their historical achievements.

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