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Should there be an international system for loans of cultural treasures that the country of origin wants back?

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Should there be an international system for loans of cultural treasures that the country of origin wants back?

Alex Helling's picture
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An Aztec headdress from pre-Columbian Mexico is to go home from Austria, but only temporarily. The headdress, which was taken by Spanish Conquistador Cortez in 1519, is to be loaned after agreeing to acknowledge Austrian ownership of the object. This has been necessary as Mexico usually regards such relics from its history before conquest by the Spanish as national treasures which must then stay in Mexico if they are ever returned. Such a policy is likely to mean that objects are never returned for display for fear that they may be seized. Ownership is a difficult question; should such objects be considered to be owned by their country of origin and therefore returned wherever possible? Or should we accept that the diffusion of cultural relics throughout the world is a good thing. Such questions are complicated by history; a great many objects were plundered and stolen particularly by the west leading to extensive collections in European institutions that do not wish to give up their diverse collection.

The deal betweeen Austria and Mexico raises the prospect of creating a precedent and potentially a framework for allowing similar extended loans while still allowing the lending instution to retain ownership. Would this be an acceptable half way house?

Debatabase debate: This House would return cultural property residing in museums to its place of origin.

http://www.archnews.co.uk/featured/5018-montezuma%E2%80%99s-headdress-to...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-17878130

2 years 22 weeks ago
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