New Advisory Committee, Restitution and Repatriation of Cultural Heritage
22 Jun 2023
Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin T.D., has announced (20 June 2023) the establishment of a new expert committee to advise the Irish Government on issues relating to the restitution and repatriation of culturally sensitive objects in Ireland. The committee will undertake research into international best practice within the field of provenance research, restitution and repatriation, as well as engaging with key stakeholders to assess the scope of relevant cultural heritage collections in Ireland. The objective of the committee is to provide policy advice and prepare national guidelines to support Irish cultural institutions in dealing with objects of unknown provenance in their collections.
Internationally, there have been a number of recent high profile cases in which artefacts have been returned by cultural institutions to their places of origin. While there is growing public awareness of these issues, until now, there have been no guidelines for cultural institutions in Ireland regarding how to deal with such objects. The new advisory committee will provide critical support to collection managers regarding professional standards in the management of cultural heritage.
The committee will be chaired by the Rt. Hon. Sir Donnell Deeny, chairman of the U.K. government’s Spoliation Advisory Panel and member of the Court of Arbitration for Art in The Hague. Membership of the committee will be drawn from the museum, archives and gallery sector, the civil service, and legal and ethical expertise, as well as representation from claimant communities. The Heritage Council, the statutory body with responsibility to propose policies relating to heritage objects as well as responsibility for the Museum Standards Programme of Ireland, will serve as the oversight body for the advisory committee and will provide the secretariat.
Minister Martin said:
“The restitution and repatriation of cultural heritage is a complex and sensitive issue, and one that is increasingly coming to the fore for museums worldwide. That makes it all the more important that we provide structures and guidance to support our cultural institutions in navigating this terrain. I am confident that the work of this new Advisory Committee on Restitution and Repatriation will improve our understanding of cultural artefacts whose provenance would otherwise remain unknown and foster greater international dialogue and cooperation on these issues.”
Chief Executive Officer of the Heritage Council, Virginia Teehan, stated:
“The announcement today (20 June 2023) marks a significant step forward in ensuring that the utmost care is given when considering the repatriation and restitution of culturally sensitive objects. Along with our Departmental colleagues, it is incumbent upon us to support the development of professional standards in consultation with those who have responsibility for the management of our collections, and who may be required to navigate this unfamiliar territory. The establishment of the committee builds on the work the Heritage Council has been doing with the sector since 2006 as part of its Museum Standards Programme for Ireland (MSPI), where a programme of accreditation has already helped to propel the standards of its 61 participants to new levels of excellence.”