The University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art has decided on returning the stolen artifacts. These artifacts were stolen when the British looted modern day Nigeria in 1897. Like them many other museums are also considering returning the stolen artifacts from Nigeria. These artifacts belong to the Oba of Benin.
Speaking on this matter UI Stanley Museum of Art Director Lauren Lessing had said “Provenance research is slow and labor-intensive, but we have now identified two artworks in the Stanley’s collection that were likely looted during the 1897 British attack on the royal palace of Benin.”
“We cannot ethically display or publish these objects because they rightfully belong to the Oba of Benin.” Lessing added.
“It is his decision whether or not to display them.” She further added.
The Washington Post conducted a survey whose main objective was to find out how many of those museums had stolen artifacts. In particular, the artifacts which were stolen from the Benin Kingdom. Out of seventy institutions, fifty-six had the art pieces from Benin. They made up a total of twelve hundred artifacts. Out of fifty-six museums, sixteen were planning on either returning the artifacts or in process of returning them.
There are two artworks that the Stanley Museum of Art plans on returning. These artifacts came from collectors who didn’t know where these artifacts originated from. The university is in contact with the Nigerian authorities. They plan on returning those artifacts to them.
According to Lessing, “Our goal is to deaccession them and return them to their rightful owners as swiftly as possible.”
On returning the artifacts she said, “In the wake of these discoveries, we began discussions with a member of the royal family who has arranged an audience for us with the Oba of Benin that will occur this fall.”
The Washington Post has said that the museums have started returning these artifacts after the murder of George Floyd. As after his death, there were a lot of racial issues that were brought up. The COVID crisis also gave the museums more time to dedicate their efforts at returning those artifacts. Most of the museums were closed and nobody paid any visit to them.
Other Museums are also planning on returning the artifacts that belong to the Oba of Benin. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology also plans on returning 196 artifacts to the Nigerian Officials. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, has also agreed to return three artifacts to the Nigerian Officials.
The Nigerian government is also preparing to accommodate these pieces. They are making preparations already. The Nigerian government cannot pay for the cost of shipping and storing these artifacts. Storing and keeping these pieces is another problem for Nigeria. As these things require a lot of money. Nigeria on the other hand is a poor country. It is yet to make facilities that ensure the proper storage of these artifacts.