REPATRIATES: Artistic Research in Museums and Communities in the process of Repatriation from Europe.

The REPATRIATES project is responding to what happens when major museums in Europe begin to return art works from their collections to communities from which they were taken during colonization. There are often complex political, historical, legal, and emotional dimensions to the repatriation of such cultural objects. We explore what is happening right now in several current international case studies of these kinds of repatriation requests. The case studies are: Austria to Mexico; United Kingdom to Australia; France to Benin and Nigeria; and Germany to Namibia.

We are interested in what happens to people, places and things when such objects are repatriated to the communities that want to have them returned. We use different kinds of research methods to try to understand these complex interactions:

  • We create and commission new artworks that can stand in and relate to objects that are being returned  
  • We work with stakeholder communities from all sides whose experiences should be heard
  • We are interested in different ideas of what ‘property’ might be, especially for  societies and communities that emphasize reciprocal relationships and exchanges rather than individual material accumulations such as collections. 
  • We work alongside museum professionals in collections to understand museum points of view

In the REPATRIATES project, multiple voices are gathered together for artistic research and fieldwork in order to produce a series of new artworks, films, books, workshops and exhibitions that will help to define the significance and future potential of repatriation of cultural heritage from museums to communities.  The purpose of this project is to better understand people’s relationships to objects, their subjectivity, and the meaning of their return. 



This research has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 101001407 – REPATRIATES).