Categories
Activism Art and Design History

Activism idea: ranking museums by stolen artifacts

I love it when a bunch of random pieces add together into something cool.

I was telling my husband over dinner about everyone’s Create Day projects, including Angelo’s IndieWeb.rocks, which assesses which IndieWeb components a website is doing and recommends improvements. I created a wiki page about land acknowledgement, and as I was explaining the concept he recalled that PBS Eons episodes frequently include an acknowledgement at the end that many artifacts were taken from indigenous lands without permission.

I’m also reading a book called The Art of Activism, which prompts artists to look for new ways to provide commentary and activists to go beyond the usual protest.

Put those elements together, throw in some Elgin Marbles, contrasted with the Smithsonian’s recent move to return a collection of African art, and you’ve got a recipe for some art activism:

  • Pull a Banksy and place additional placards beside stolen pieces in museums noting the true ownership / origin. “Pillaged from Greece through bribery and corruption.”
  • Create a website that ranks institutions by the proportion of their collection that is stolen or contested, and produce a guide like Seafood Watch does for seafood. “Ooh the British Museum is on the red list, better skip that one.” You could also allow nations and tribes to submit complaints cross-referenced with the museum’s online collections as an additional way to raise awareness and drum up public support for items to be returned to their rightful cultural owners.

Land back, and also heritage back. ✊

I don’t know if the information about objects’ origins is widely available — probably not, and especially could be obscured through purchases after the fact.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at tracy.durnell@gmail.com. She/her.

One reply on “Activism idea: ranking museums by stolen artifacts”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *