Cultural Artefacts Taken from Their Motherland, Who Gets Custody?

Ever since the 1950’s, an international legal regime has been developed to protect cultural heritage against military operation and against illicit traffic of cultural property. Along with that, an international campaign seeking for the return of cultural heritage to countries of origin has constantly drawn the public’s attention. Tied in with history, law, culture, and international politics, this issue regarding the allocation of cultural heritage is undoubtedly controversial and complicated.

My thesis represents a detailed study on the repatriation of cultural property, whether these objects should in fact be repatriated or whether they should stay where they are now. I examined the laws and policies governing this whole area. I identified specific cases where cultural relics have been lost to their native country and how cultural objects are being used as mediums of soft power by museums. I further examined the cultural and ethical issues underpinning the international conventions protecting cultural heritage, and the claims seeking for the return of cultural heritage. Related issues, including cultural identity, and one’s right to cultural heritage were discussed. In my final chapter, I discussed case studies and recent encouraging developments in this whole area. I attempted to answer the question raised as to where these artefacts rightfully belong, be it in their present museums or whether they should be returned to the country from which they came. Finally I put forward some suggested solutions.