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July 11, 2019

Panel | Decolonisation and Restitution: Moving Towards a More Holistic Perspective and Relational Approach

As the imperative to decolonise cultural and educational institutions grows, issues of restitution of museum collections have gained renewed attention.

It is clear that decolonising museums will have far-reaching implications for how museums manage, interpret and present their collections. Issues of ownership, control and power are at the heart of discussions: who are the rightful owners of objects collected as a result of colonialism and its legacies; who controls the narratives that give meaning to these collections; and who has the power to set museum agendas and prioritise whose voices count.

The question of ownership via claims of restitution, have typically been resolved through one-off transactions. However, there is now an opportunity to consider restitution in a larger, more holistic context and understand how claims of restitution could provide the basis for relationship building that could support other aspects of museum decolonisation.

This session divided in two parts will explore and examine how the sector is leading and responding to the decolonization movement and consider how decolonisation is influencing our understanding of restitution. Part I (90 minutes) will focus on decolonisation. Nominated representatives from ICOM committees will explain how museums in their areas are addressing decolonisation, where they see progress and what challenges and barriers they face. Part II (90 minutes) will look at the current state of restitution, specifically exploring the approach of colonised countries reclaim their national artefacts and how colonialist countries have responded, particularly in light of the Sarr and Savoy report commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron; the initiatives taken by Dutch museums to proactively open talks with former colonies instead of waiting for claims; and the German government’s $2 Million investment into restitution research.

The aim of these two concurrent sessions is to enable participants to develop a holistic view of decolonisation which includes, but is not limited to, issues of restitution. The session will help participants trace and map new and different ways of seeing and thinking around these issues; and provide new methods of creative problem solving and new approaches to conflict resolution.  These sessions will also be used as the basis for understanding how ICOM as an international network can support relationships building among communities of interest and facilitate knowledge exchange.



ICOM Secretariat, Museums and Society Coordinator

Chair, ICOM UK

Speakers Session 1

Marilia BONAS
Head of the Memorial of the Resistance of São Paulo, Board Member, ICOM Brazil

CEO, Western Australian Museum, former Chair ICOM Australia

Vice-President, Kolkata Centre for Creativity, Chair ICOM India

William U. EILAND
Director, Georgia Museum of Art, Board Member, ICOM UK

Laura PYE
Director, National Museums Liverpool, ICOM UK Representative

Michèle RIVET
Vice-Chair, Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Board Member ICOM Canada

Speakers Session 2

Director, Heeswijk Castle, Chair ICOM Netherlands

Fatima FALL
Director, Saint-Louis’s Center for Research and Documentation, Chair ICOM Senegal

Bertrand GUILLET
Director, Château des ducs de Bretagne – Musée d’histoire de Nantes – Le Mémorial de l’abolition de l’esclavage, ICOM France Representative

Nehoa Hilma KAPUKA
Project Development Manager, Museums Association of Namibia, ICOM Namibia Representative

Director, Ludwig Museum, Chair ICOM Germany

ICOM Kyoto 2019

Between the 1st and the 7th of September 2019, Kyoto (Japan) will host the biggest and most important conference of museums in the world. More than 3.000 museum professionals and experts from all international backgrounds will participate in this triannual event, the 25th General Conference of ICOM.  After 24 successful editions, ICOM’s flagship conference has become a worldwide reputed hub for exchange about the topical issues museums tackle today, as well as the most innovative solutions.

ICOM Kyoto 2019 website