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  ICME Newsletter 38, September 2004




<h2>WORDS FROM THE PRESIDENT</h2> Dear friends and colleagues of ICME,

These are my last "Words from the President".

From Wednesday afternoon on October 6, 2004, ICME will hopefully have elected a new president and my two terms as president have come to an end. I hope to go on to become a member of ICOM's Executive Council. Time will show.

An about-to-resign-president should not try to make too strong advices regarding the future of ICME and certainly not be involved in ICME's future after having resigned - at least not for some years. Let me make the following statement though:

I think ICME should seriously consider focusing more narrowly its scope. I think the field of ICME is too wide and too loosely defined and this makes it difficult to create and keep up a strong commitment involving many museum professionals with high quality papers and discussions on certain themes over several years.

I think our complete failure in making work groups come alive - in fact at all to be borne - illustrates this.

I have suggested that cultural diversity could be ICME's new focus. I know that there is a problem with the term "cultural diversity" because it has certain, very specific connotations in different countries. Therefore some other name should be created, covering museum (in a wide sense) activities dealing with more than one "culture".

The types of members that we have in ICME overlap a lot with the types of members of ICR. Possibly ICME and ICR could meet and discuss an exchange of members (voluntary of course) as well as the respective scopes of each committee, because I think also ICR have a problem with being too widely and loosely defined.

I hope we can discuss this in Seoul, literally in my last hour as president, and that this discussion can be fruitfully carried on later - if the new board so wishes.

I look forward to see as many of you as possible in Seoul with real and childish anticipation! Involving oneself in ICOM work means that you have the gratifying and frustrating experience of having some of your very best and dearest friends scattered all over the globe, seeing them - at best! - only once a year, and some only every third year, and someone you really hope to meet once more at one stage stops coming and you never see each other again.

My sincerest thanks to all of you! See you in Seoul!

Yours, Per


<h2>ICME 2004 - PROGRAM</h2>

"Museums and Intangible Heritage" ICOM 2004 general conference, Seoul, Korea

  • ICOM-ICTOP participates in the afternoon sessions
<h3>I. Monday October 4: </h3>

Concurrent Session: Museums and Living Heritage

Please note:

- Each speaker has 20-minutes for presentation and 10-minutes for questions and discussion <

- Abstracts of all papers are available for downloading

- Conference registration, hotel booking and the general ICOM program is available on the main conference web site: http://www.icom2004.org/

<h3>I. Monday October 4: </h3>

Concurrent Session: Museums and Living Heritage

0930 -1100

Welcoming Addresses

- Hongnam KIM, Professor, Director, National Folk Museum of Korea

- Per B. Rekdal, President, ICOM-ICME

1. Kyoung-Mann CHO (Korea): From the Fetishism of Cultural Artifacts to the Reflexive Field of Human Being.

2. Jang-hyuk IM (Korea): A Prospective and Retrospective Evaluation of the Protective Policy on Intangible Cultural Properties.

3. Silvia Singer (Mexico): One More Challenge for Museums: Intangible Heritage Reflections from a Mexican Perspective

1100 - 1130 Coffee break

1130 - 1300

4. Jong-sung YANG (Korea): "Comprehensive Countermeasures of Protection for Non-Government Designated Intangible Cultural Heritages and Digital Archiving for Future Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritages": Context for Korean Shamanism.

5. Leif Pareli (Norway): Sami Shamanism: From Prohibition and Persecution to Expression of National Identity

6. Kolokesa Mahina (New Zealand): Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa: The Case of the Intangible Heritage 

1300 - 1430 Lunch

1430 - 1600

7. Han-Bum SUH (Korea): Considerations on the Preservation and Development of Intangible Heritage, Concentrated on Korean Traditional Music.

8. Daniel Winfree Papuga (Norway): A Taste of Intangible Heritage: Food Traditions Inside and Outside of the Museum

9. Henry C. Bredekamp (South Africa): Transforming representations of Intangible Heritage at Iziko Museums, South-Africa

In addition to the Concurrent Session, a joint session organised by INTERCOM, ICME and ICOM Legal Affairs Committee will also be held between 1430 - 1600 on Monday with the title LEGAL AND ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS IN THE REPATRIATION OF STOLEN AND ILLEGALLY EXPORTED CULTURAL PROPERTY: IS THERE A MEANS TO SETTLE THE DISPUTES?

Moderator: Geoffrey Lewis, former ICOM President

Keynote Speaker: Marilyn Phelan, Robert H. Bean Professor of Law and Museum Science, Texas Tech University School of Law, USA 


Harrie Leyten, Senior Lecturer of Museology, Reinwardt Academy, Amsterdam, Netherlands

W. Richard West, Jr, Founding Director, National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC,USA

Further information is available on the INTERCOM pages: http://susan.chin.gc.ca/~intercom/Conference2004/

1600 - 1630 Coffee break

1630 - 1800

10. Ana Maria Theresa P. Labrador (Philippines): Colonial Legacies, Memory And Display: The Museum as Space for Representations of Choice

11. Margaret Hart Robertson (Spain): The Difficulties of Interpreting 'Mediterranean Voices': Exhibiting Intangibles

12. Patrick Boylan (United Kingdom):The ICOM Curricula Guidelines for Museum Professional Development and the extension of ICOM's official role into the Living Intangible Heritage

<h3>II. Tuesday October 5 </h3>

Place: The National Folk Museum of Korea

0800 - 0930

- Departure from COEX, the main conference venue

- Arrival at the National Folk Museum of Korea which lies in beautiful Kyongbokkung Palace

- Visit to the NFM's open-air exhibitions 

0940 - 1000 Registration

1000 - 1100

- Visit to the NFM's main galleries

- Visit and participation in the NFM's educational programmes 

1100 - 1200 - Discussion with the NFM staff concerning Eastern and Western forms of presentation.

1200 - 1300 - Lunch

1300 -1600

- 'Hands on' workshops at NFM and the adjoining children's museum, including the making of Korean traditional masks and 'Sotdae' the ICOM 2004 SEOUL emblem.

1630 - 1710 - Congratulatory performance (Korean traditional performances)

1730 - 1930

- Opening ceremony of the NFM's special exhibition "Wood and paper crafts as intangible heritage"

- Exhibition viewing

- Dinner

<h3>III. Wednesday October 6</h3>

0930 - 1100

1. Tom G. Svensson (Norway): Knowledge and Context - the Social Life of Objects

2. Annette Fromm (USA): Transforming the Intangible into the Tangible; Expositions of Ethnic Culture in the United States

3. Philip Scher (USA): The Politics of Preservation: An Anthropological Perspective

1100 - 1130 Coffee break

1130 - 1300

4. Lidija Nikocevic (Croatia): The Intangibility of Multiculturalism

5. William Westerman (USA): The Queen City Manifesto: The Potential for Civic Engagement in Local Folklife Museums

6. Ngaire Blankenberg and Wonderboy Peters (South Africa): Constructing Community and Trading in Memory: The Experience of the Kliptown Open Air Museum.

1300 - 1430 Lunch

1430 - 1600

7. Matilda Burden (South Africa): Museums and intangible heritage: The Afrikaans Language Museum

8. Viv Golding (UK): Inspiration Africa! Using Tangible and Intangible Heritage to Promote Social Inclusion Amongst Young People with Disabilities.

9. Martin Skrydstrup (Denmark/USA): Repatriation between Rhetoric and Reality

1600 - 1630 Coffee break

1630 - 1800 ICME general meeting and election

Thursday, October 7: Excursion day, with a choice of several tours in and around Seoul (Information on the ICOM2004 registration form).

Friday, October 8: General Assembly of ICOM, Final Plenary Session, Farewell party

Saturday-Sunday, October 9-10: ICME Post-conference tour to Chungnam province (see ICME-news37 for information)


The election of the 2004 ICME Board will take place during the ICME General Meeting on Wednesday, October 6th . The board consists of President, Secretary, Treasurer, Editor, Regional correspondents as well as Ordinary Members. Only voting members of ICME are eligible to serve as Board members.

According to ICOM statutes:

"No person may serve as an ordinary member of the Board of an International Committee for a continuous period of more than six years, unless subsequently elected as Chairperson or Vice- Chairperson. No person may serve as Chairperson or Vice- Chairperson for a continuous period of more than six years." (http://icom.museum/statutes.html)

Since the president is elected separately, for instance a board member having served two terms is thereafter eligible as president for another two terms. Per B. Rekdal has served two terms as president and cannot be re-elected.

The following ICME board members have served only one term in their present positions and may be re-elected to a second term:

  • Daniel Winfree Papuga, Norway
  • Wedad Hamed, Egypt
  • Lidija Nikocevic, Croatia
  • Maria Camilla de Palma, Italy
  • Corneliu Bucur, Romania
  • Aldona Jonaitis, USA
  • Lejo Schenk, The Netherlands
  • Joris Capenberghs, Belgium
  • Sujit Som, India

The following ICME board members have served two terms in their present positions:

  • Damodar Frlan, Croatia
  • Harrie Leyten, The Netherlands
  • Dolores Soriano, Barcelona
  • Shaje Tshiluila, Dem. Rep. Du Congo
  • Espen Wæhle, Denmark
  • Gaye Sculthorpe, Australia

Nominations for the ICME President and Board will be accepted until the election meeting on Wednesday Oct. 6, and may be sent to president@icme.icom.museum However, those wishing to present their candidacy in advance through the ICME distribution list should submit this before September 25. Please include a short statement supporting the nomination of the candidate, and brief biographical details. So far, one nomination has been submitted:


I was born in the United States in 1955. After finishing my first degree in California, I moved to Norway to study social anthropology. Since 1992, I have taught at the University of Oslo and various regional colleges, been involved in creating a number of ethnographic exhibitions and for a period served as director of the Oslo University Ethnographic Museum. I have been a member of ICOM since 1997. In 2001, I was elected ICME co-editor, and have more recently served as ICME secretary. In addition, I am the editor of PEDIMUS (the Norwegian journal of museum pedagogy) and presently engaged in research on tourism and rural heritage in Croatia.

I consider ICME to be at the core of an important network for Ethnographic museums. If elected as president, I will strive to strengthen this network through improving exchange between ICME members, working for contact with new membership groups and through collaboration with other ICOM committees.


A new initiative in an exhausted debate

In his article entitled Return – restitution – repatriation: A tradition of non-cooperation (ICME News 34 February 2003) Harrie Leyten raises the seminal question: "How great is the interest among ICME members world wide to have an active working group on Return/Restitution/Repatriation or even such a working group at all?" On the face of it the question of return of cultural material to its place of origin should be especially pertinent to museums which store and display collections of foreign provenience, such as Ethnographic Museums. However, Leyten states that the debate seems exhausted within ICME circles and that the working group on repatriation ‘cannot boast of great achievements’. Pondering the reasons for this Leyten pursues further intriguing questions:" Are we showing a lack of activity, because we are not interested? Is it because we do not wish to be involved in these discussions as we have something to hide? Is it because we are actively engaged in the fight against illicit traffic as individuals and do not feel the need to make it a concerted action within ICME?"

More than a year after Leyten’s initial framing of these questions they remain unanswered within the columns of ICME News. Does this lack of response to Leyten’s call for a reinvigorated debate on what role ICME should play in the international debate on repatriation imply that the committee should not play any role at all? As an outsider to ICME circles I am not in a position to answer that question (1). But since Leyten’s challenging questions remain unanswered I would like to suggest an idea that could potentially turn an exhausted debate about the principal arguments pro and con repatriation into a more substantive, realistic and productive debate about the vices and virtues of what has already been done. What I suggest is to build an on-line collaborative database listing past acts of repatriation between sovereign Nation States on a global scale. The idea is based on the simple fact that the return of tangible culture to its place of origin has been publicly debated at least since the House of Commons in 1816 questioned the legality and legitimacy of Lord Elgins’s acquisitions in Athens and practiced at least since the Congress of Vienna in 1815, but in the beginning of the 21st Century we do not know the full scale of the actual phenomenon. In other words, to date no comprehensive catalogue listing actual instances of the transfer of cultural property exists. My counter question to Leyten is how an informed debate about this issue could possibly advance without the empirical knowledge to assess systematically and on a global scale what has already been done and the lessons to be learned from this. In light of this I suggest that the format of a collaborative database would be ideal to collect and systematize this information, which I believe is indispensable for an adequate assessment of the contemporary dimensions of the problem. The realization of such a database resource would provide an objective platform for future directions and ultimately feasible, creative and equitable solutions acceptable to all stakeholders.

In the following I will briefly sketch and discuss the justification, scope, limitations, type of information to include and implementation of such a database. My intention is to launch the idea in a more detailed version, than what space allows me to here, in a joint session at the upcoming general ICOM meeting in Seoul. With this brief introduction to the project I intend to respond to Leyten’s call for a debate about the future of the ICME working group on repatriation and hopefully stimulate some initial reflections and comments on the idea of a database.


The ICOM Code of Professional Ethics states that: In response to requests for the return of cultural property to the country or people of origin, museums should be prepared to initiate dialogues with an open-minded attitude based on scientific and professional principles (in preference to action at a governmental or political level) (ICOM 2001, Article 4.4). I would argue that access to a searchable database inventorying existing repatriations and their rationale would enable museum personnel to more effectively and consistently comply with the ICOM Code of Ethics prescribing a dialogue based on ‘scientific and professional principles’. It would enable museum institutions to access a continuously updated on-line resource keeping track of current institutional practice in this field and its legal and ethical justifications on a global scale. Used in conjunction with the UNESCO web site listing each Member State’s cultural heritage legislation, import and export certificates and other pertinent jurisdiction affecting museums (2), the database I suggest could be a powerful tool in assessing and processing claims in an expeditiously manner. Ideally, it could serve the same purpose as Leyten describes for the ‘Leiden network’, just on a much wider scale. Featuring a range of searchable entries such as type of object transferred, identity of receiving institution, identity of relinquishing institution, rationale underpinning the transaction, etc. the database would allow for global comparisons to a range of different or similar transactions subject to similar or different conditions, or the non-existence of such.

But the potential usage of such a database extends well beyond the advantages of a comparative frame of reference in any single assessment, dialogue or decision-making process about specific cases. With regard to human remains and material of sacred significance the ICOM Code of Ethics encourages museum institutions to develop explicit policies for responding to claims for the return of such objects (ICOM 2001, Article 6.6). A database would offer an actual workable comprehensive catalogue illuminating the variability of actual solutions in response to claims and their rationale, which could serve as a resource to museums currently drafting their policy on the matter in concurrence with article 6.6. Ultimately, a continuously updated database would serve the development of international standards in these matters and meet the growing demand for accountability and transparence in the management of museum collections held in trust for the public.

What cases to include? (3)

The first thing to consider is the scope of the database, i.e. what acts of international repatriations to in-and exclude. In his article Leyten does not explicitly discriminate between the terms Return, Restitution, and Repatriation, but for the purpose of a database the exact meaning of these terms is crucial, since they define the scope and limitations of the project.

The concepts of Return and Restitution were defined at the twentieth session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1978 (4). The term restitution should only be used in case of illicit appropriation, whereas return was to designate cases where objects had left their country of origin during colonial times. The first term implies retribution or reparation for injury in a judicial sense, whereas the second is intentionally impartial, because several UNESCO Member States at the time expressed the wish that a neutral term be deployed. The first term hinges on formal obligation, whereas the second implies voluntary action (5).

However, this UNESCO terminology is far from always applied in the official discourse on transactions in cultural property between States. The most substantive case in terms of number of objects transferred (more than 35.000) (6) will illustrate this point: At the last meeting of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee in 2003 the Assistant Director-General of UNESCO referred to: "…an example of voluntary returns… that of the National Museum of Denmark to Greenland in 2001." (7) However, in the official discourse of the agreement the act is designated as a transfer. Thus, in the actual discourse of bilateral agreements an even more neutral term than return seem in some instances to be preferred.

Staying with this example another question of definition arises: If we limit the database to international transactions in the sense of transfers between sovereign Nation States, then the transfer between Denmark and Greenland would hardly qualify, since Greenland has a Home Rule Government with its own parliament, but without formal sovereignty in matters of external relations. However, I would suggest that the transfer of human remains from the American Museum of Natural History in 1993 to Greenland would meet the criteria of inclusion, since that transfer was one between a federal supported institution within a sovereign Nation State to a constituency within the jurisdiction of another Nation State.

If we return to terminology, the American Museum of Natural History designated its return of human remains in 2002 to Haida Gwaii in Canada as a transfer, whereas the returns of human remains and cultural items from the same institution within the United States under NAGPRA is termed repatriation. This term literally means ‘back to the fathers’ land’ (8), which explains the fact that within the UN-system the term is not applied by UNESCO, but by UNHCR – United Nations High Commission on Refugees. It follows that beyond the context of museums and cultural property debates the term means the return of refugees from exile or displacement to their home country. Within the U.S. national NAGPRA legislation ‘repatriation’ is a legal consequence of the adjudication of ownership, which is defined as cultural affiliation established on the basis of a preponderance of evidence between the tangible material in question and the requesting Native American group, Native Hawaiian organization or Alaska Native village (9). According to the suggested criteria it follows that the transfer of human remains from the American Museum of Natural History to Haida Gwaii in Canada should be included, but already conducted or future repatriations to Hawaii, Alaska and the 48 lower States should not.

I would further suggest including cases of explicit intent to repatriate, but for whatever reasons still not executed. This would include Sweden’s decision in 1994 to transfer a totem pole to the Haisla First Nation in Canada, even though the actual transaction is still to take place. Another case in point would be Italy’s explicit intent to transfer the Obelisk of Aksum to Ethiopia in 1997. At the last meeting of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee in March 2003 the obelisk was still standing at the Piazza Campagna in Rome and the case was brought up by the Ethiopian Delegation. The Italian Delegation responded that they awaited a solution regarding the transportation logistics from Rome to Aksum.

Leyten touches several times on the theme of illicit trafficking in cultural objects which has taken center stage in the late 1990s and questions – if I understand him correctly - whether this debate has removed momentum from the debate on repatriation. Given the continuation of rampant illicit trafficking in the past decade it is hardly any surprise that the debate on repatriation finds itself in an impasse. At the ‘UNESCO International Experts Meeting on the Return of Cultural Properties and the Fight Against Their Illicit Trafficking’ in the fall of 2002 in Seoul the eradication of illicit trafficking in cultural objects dominated completely over the discussion of voluntary returns. In this connection Leyten dwells on the widely quoted public affaire erupting in the aftermath of the opening of the Louvre exhibition entitled Les Arts Premiers in Spring 2000. Two Nok terracotta heads from the exhibition was listed in the Liste Rouge published by ICOM and UNESCO, designating objects as illegally excavated or exported from the country of origin. A compromise was struck where France recognized Nigeria’s ownership title and Nigeria granted France a 25-year long loan of the objects.

Leyten sees this incident as reflective of a new era, where direct claims have gone out of fashion and the focus is on partnership, exchange, mutual visits, shared knowledge and heritage concepts. If we exclude claims from indigenous peoples and other non-governmental entities I would to some extent agree with Leyten, but the question here is whether the Nok terracotta case meets the criteria for inclusion in the proposed database. The purchase of the sculptures from the Belgian dealer was authorized by an agreement reached between French President Chirac and Nigerian President Obasanjo. However, France recognized Nigeria’s ownership title, which then logically implies a transfer of ownership, but the Nok Sculptures remained in the collection of the Musée du Quai Branly/Louvre for a renewable period of 25 years. Thus is seems we have a transfer of cultural property as long as property is defined as rights, but negative transfer of cultural property if the term is defined as physical objects. For the purpose of the database I would suggest defining cultural property as rights and would thus include the agreement reached between France and Nigeria concerning the two Nok terracotta heads as a case of international transfer of cultural property.

Arguably one of the most difficult questions to sort out is whether to include standing claims and pending cases. When does a letter stating a claim become a case and under what conditions would an institution be willing to list such in a database? Would a non-enforceable international claim from a non-sovereign constituency, be it a cultural center, an organization, a village, a community or an indigenous group be recognized as a claim? For very legitimate reasons many, maybe most museums, are not willing to discuss pending cases, not to speak of claims, which are not filed according to international protocol through national authorities. Thus, I would suggest excluding unresolved claims and pending cases, which would imply that Greece’s claim for the Parthenon Sculptures, Turkey’s claim for the Boazköy Sphinx, and Korea’s claim for the Oe-Kyujanggak Books, only to mention three pending cases, should not be listed in the proposed database.

Thus, at the most general level, and subject to numerous exceptions, the terms repatriation and restitution indicates a retributive legally stipulated act, whereas return and transfer implies a voluntarily transaction predicated upon non-enforceable natural rights. This is not the place for a sophisticated discourse analysis on the politics of recognition and non-recognition that these terms imply, or the visions of historical and social justice they project. However, for the purpose of a database we need to come to terms (literally) with what types of transactions in cultural property to include. I propose provisionally to include international transactions of cultural property between any entities in sovereign Nation States, designated as ‘return’, ‘restitution’, ‘repatriation’ or ‘transfer’. This would include all past transactions in cultural property with and without recourse to the UNESCO 1970 Convention and the UNIDROIT 1995 Convention as well as bilateral transactions subject to arbitration. I further propose to exclude spoils of war, e.g. the objects France was compelled to return at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 (which Leyten elaborates on in his article), cultural property displaced during WWII including the art objects in Jewish possession looted by the Nazis (for which there already exists databases), and transfers of cultural property subject to the Hague Convention, First Protocol (1954) and Second Protocol of 1999.

What information to include?

If we are to learn something more than just occurrences of transactions in cultural property on and between all Continents throughout history, we need to figure out what types of information are relevant to include. Chronicling the history of the ICME working group on repatriation, Leyten mentions the pivotal role of the late Herbert Ganslmayr in standardizing the UNESCO principles for the return and restitution of cultural property. These came out in 1983 in two volumes, the first entitled Standard form concerning requests for return or restitution and the second entailing the guidelines for the use of this form. I suggest adopting this standard form as a generic template for the database in the designation of fields of entry. This involves object specific information as well as circumstantial information. Subject to finer grained sub-divisions I would propose the following general categories: Nature of the object transferred and its documentation; Identity and status of the claimant and legal, ethical or other rationale underpinning the claim; Identity and status of the relinquishing institution and justification of transfer.

With regard to the nature of the object we would need a discussion about what types of material objects to include. Here I would suggest including all the items defined as cultural property in Article 1 of the UNESCO 1970 Convention. In terms of descriptive taxonomies the Object ID (10) developed through the collaboration of museums, cultural heritage institutions and the art and antiquities trade could serve as generic template. Further questions to discuss would be whether we want to know what information preceded a claim and what happened after the transaction took place? The first question could be indirectly answered through the entry on the documentation of the object, i.e. did scholarly literature exist about the object prior to the claim, was it on display prior to the claim, was it listed in any publicly accessible inventory, etc. The second question, I think, is thornier. It puzzles me that of the handful of instances of repatriation Leyten mentions, he omits the transfer of ethnographic material from the Royal Museum for Central Africa, in Tervuren (Belgium) to the Institut des Musées nationaux du Zaïre from 1976-82. This is one of the few cases actually published (11), but several rumors have it that due to the looting of the museums in the Congo the transferred objects currently circulate in the commercial art markets. I would suggest excluding information post-facto the institutional explication of intent or decision to transfer cultural property for two reasons: 1) It would make the constant updating of such a database an overwhelming task; 2) If information regarding the afterlife of a transfer of cultural property is deemed relevant to a given institution or constituency they could contact the claimant and make inquiries on their own behalf. Generally, I propose to limit the scope of information to what has been transferred, when and why.

Issues of implementation

I realize the scale of the challenge of this project and the purpose here is not to deliver a blueprint or plan of implementation, but to hopefully open up a dialogue about the desirability and obstacles, merits and pitfalls of the idea of a database. Here I would like to briefly and tentatively touch upon some of the crucial questions, which could make, or break, the project.

Who should design, host, and maintain such a database? Initially, I would suggest establishing a meeting for interested parties, where the idea and its implementation could be discussed. Eventually these meetings would lead to a precise and detailed proposal, with a subsequent soliciting of external funding. For the purpose of this project I would propose that ICME forged collaborative partnerships with relevant bodies such as the UNESCO Secretariat, because the maintenance of the database would probably be rather dependent on permanent staff. Moreover, such partnerships would most likely enhance external funding opportunities.

How should the necessary data be collected? I would suggest that the process of entry of data would commence with the existing scholarly knowledge in the field. The main sources of information here are Ganslmayr’s magisterial work Nofretete will nach Hause. Europa – Schatzhaus der "Dritten Welt" (1984; C. Bertelsmann: Munich) (12), which surveyed, on an unprecedented scale, a wide range of cases of return of cultural property. Later came Jeanette Greenfield’s The Return of Cultural Treasures (CUP: [1989] 1996), which is the only work to date comparable in scope and scale with regard to case studies. Moira Simpson’s work Making Representations: Museums in the Post-Colonial Era (Routledge 1996) also lists a number of cases. In the information kit provided at the last meeting of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee in 2003 a sheet with examples of return and restitution in stricto sensu and lato sensu were included. I should also mention the eminent and cross disciplinary International Journal of Cultural Property (1992-2002) (13) featuring many case studies. These sources of information along with the compilation of a comprehensive bibliography would make a beginning.

With regard to the cases not published in the scholarly literature I would not suggest mailing out questionnaires from say Paris to every corner of the world inquiring about institutional practice regarding transfer of cultural property. Many museums have already received such questionnaires and the response rate is low. My suggestion here would be to operate with one master database linked to a number of regional or national databases, because the most effective and reliable data collecting is local/national. This involves making one person responsible at a national or regional level, linking peripheral databases, building in assurances and creating metadata that can be linked. The logistics of this are not simple, but it is being done today within the museum world.

There already exist a number of commercial computerized databases listing stolen cultural property such as Art Loss Register (14) founded in 1991 in London, Invaluable (15) founded 1989 both operating as commercial ventures, Lost Art Internet Database(16), INTERPOL’s own database and others. UNESCO has expressed concern that private databases charge fees for access and services due to the growing international dimension of illicit trafficking make a thorough ‘universal’ database difficult to ever achieve. The type of database I suggest could be said to represent the opposite: It would list transfer of cultural property to its legal or legitimate owners, be accessible to all registered users, free to use and universal.

Concluding remarks

Leyten’s call for a reinvigorated debate on what role ICME should play in the international debate on cultural property, if any, still stands. I am inclined to respond that the debate is seemingly exhausted, not because all the arguments have been articulated repeatedly, but because the hitherto discourse on the matter seems to have revolved more around principal arguments than realities. The proposal outlined here could potentially refashion the debate in a more substantive, informed and productive direction. The proposed project could also turn the controversial and sensitive repatriation issue, embedded as it is in colonial legacies, into cooperative futures forging sustainable relations between nations, peoples and museums in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Ultimately, this project could overcome the current impasse in the debate and move the issue to the vanguard of reflective, responsible and prolific museological debate that it deserves.


My idea of a database was encouraged and informed by virtual discussions with Per Bjørn Rekdal, John McAvity, Lejo Schenk and Harrie Leyten. I am extremely grateful to Enid Schildkrout (AMNH, New York) for reading and commenting on a draft of this paper. The errors are entirely my own.


1 The author is currently a Ph.D. student in cultural anthropology at Columbia University in New York City. My doctoral research addresses what right regimes cultural property should be subject to.

2 This resource is currently under construction. At the last UNESCO meeting for the Intergovernmental Committee in March 2003 in Paris it was announced that the Director-General would shortly be issuing a letter to all Member States asking them to submit to the Secretariat a complete copy of their State’s legislation on cultural property.

3 In this section I will not assess whether to include private individuals’ voluntary returns of cultural property and the manufacturing of replicas as response to claims. These questions as well as others will be dealt with in the presentation in Seoul.

4 See Guidelines For The Use Of The "Standard Form Concerning Requests for Return or Restitution" Established By the Intergovernmental Committee, Volume 1, Paris, 1983:1.

5 However, the terminology does not appear consistent in the information kit published in conjunction with the twelfth session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee in March 2003 in Paris. In the folder a list of cases of restitution and return stricto senso and lato senso was released. Comparing the French and English version of the document inconsistencies appear, e.g.: "In September 1982, two portraits painted by Albrecht Dürer were returned to the German Democratic Republic by the United States of America following a court ruling." The French version of the list reads:"…deux portraits peints par Albrect Dürer ont été restitués …", instead of ont été retournés.

6 See Utimut – Return: The return of more than 35.000 cultural objects to Greenland (2004) edited by Peter Pentz.

7 Speech of the Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO on the Occasion of the Opening Ceremony of the Twelfth Session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (25 March 2003, Paris).

8 From Latin: Patria, fatherland.

9 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Public Law 101-601 enacted in 1990.

10 www.object-id.com

11 Boris Wastiau’s catalogue Congo-Tervuren: Aller-Retour (2000) lists the objects transferred in the period 1976-1982, but remains focused on the origin, significance and context of the objects before they were transferred to the Congo. Thus the question as to what happened with the transferred objects after they arrived in Congo remains unaddressed. When I met with the late Joseph Cornet in Liège in January 2003, he was studying this case, preparing a field trip to Kinshasa to investigate the state of the museums and what remained of the transferred objects. But most unfortunately death took him away before he could realize his plans.

12 He wrote this book together with Gert von Paczensky.

13 Oxford University Press ceased to publish the bi-annual journal in 2002, but the editors are currently looking for a new publisher.

14 www.artloss.com

15 www.invaluable.com

16 http://www.lostart.de

<address>Ph.D. Student Martin Skrydstrup</address> <address>Columbia University, Department of Anthropology</address> <address>1200 Amsterdam Avenue, NY-10027, New York, U.S.A.</address> <address>E-mail: mcs2005@columbia.edu</address>
<h2>ETHNOLOGY AND OTHERNESS</h2> <h4>Reflections on the conference "Among Others : Conflict and Encounter in European and Mediterranean Societies"</h4>

In April, 2004, the committee for the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations hosted a meeting of ethnologists, folklorists and anthropologists in Marseille, together with two scientific organisations: the Societe Internationale d'Ethnologie et de Folklore (SIEF) and the Association d'Anthropologie Mediterraneenne (ADAM). The theme "Among Others" was chosen to focus on how various European ethnologies interpret change and continuity in contemporary European and Mediterranean society. In their call for papers, the organizers say that "Places, objects, and the cultural practices we devise to experience their ownership are all engulfed in reflection and negotiation vis-à-vis historic and present cultural Others." More than three hundred papers were presented in 33 different workshops and plenary lectures. Below, I will summarize a few presentations most relevant to ICME themes:

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett gave a plenary lecture entitled "From Ethnology to Heritage: The Role of the Museum" which incorporated both a critique of "top down" delineation of intangible heritage, and questions about the role of the museums in heritage work. She considers heritage to be "metaculture", curated ideas which are the antithesis of the taken-for-granted world of habitus. This is particularly vital in the interrelationships of tangibility and intangibility. Borrowing a phrase from Latour, one of her points was that museums focusing exclusively on tangible heritage without including aspects of intangibility are working with "objects which are not yet things". "Things are slow events", she said, implying that museums should be process-oriented in both their collecting and exhibitions. One of her examples was the closure of a South-African San diarama due to protests of racial bias: How should museums take responsibility for exhibiting 'distorted' visions of culture, and how should they explain WHY such are made? How much of this is due to the heritage of the peoples in question, and how much is due to the heritage of ethnology?

In another plenary lecture, Daniel Miller spoke of "Ethnography in Private", of contradictions involved in the study of the private spheres of modern society from ethnographic perspectives. Since ethnographic practice has traditionally been based on viewing public spheres (such as village interaction), using the same techniques on, for example, the culture of a neighborhood in London would give a very limited view of the life of neighborhood inhabitants. Using the example of Gullestads study of 'kitchen-table society' in Norway, he showed conversely that a focus on the private sphere can both open up perspectives essensial to the understanding of how people live in modern societies, AND remain ethically sound.

A workshop very relevant to this years ICME/ICOM theme was "The emergence of international law surrounding cultural heritage". In this workshop, Rieks Smeets, Chief of the UNESCO Section for Intangible Heritage, summarized contemporary UNESCO work on Intangible heritage. gave a good picture of the difficulties in the approval of UN converntions, using the recently submitted "Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage" as an example. http://www.unesco.org/culture/heritage/intangible

Mr. Smeets was followed by Wend Wendland, who is a lawyer at WIPO, Division of cultural expressions. Wendland presented an overview of International copyright initiatives related to "traditional cultural expressions". This work can be immensely important to museums (and others) interested in heritage preservation. Wendland used examples from several WIPO publications, which can be downloaded from the web:

•WIPO 2003. "Culture as a commodity? Intellectual property and expressions of traditional cultures" WIPO Magazine, July-August 2003. http://www.wipo.int/

•Minding Culture: Case Studies on Intellectual Property and Traditional Cultural Expressions. Selected, prepared, researched and written by Ms. Terri Janke, for the World Intellectual Property Organization . www.wipo.int/tk/en/studies/cultural/minding-culture/studies/finalstudy.pdf

•Traditional Cultural Expressions (Folklore) www.wipo.int/tk/en/cultural/index.html

In the workshop "Making heritage: the case of the Mediterranean", convenors Mary Bouquet and Nélia Dias explored how "museums and other forms of heritage actively constitute the boundaries of cultures or civilisations conceptualised as 'Mediterranean'". In her summary of the presented papers, Bouquet noticed two trends: One was a shift from 'looking' to 'doing' on the part of contemporary heritage-interest groups. The second trend concerned taste, or "preservation by excluding the distasteful" in museums, expositions and travel litterature.

The workshop "Objects from elsewhere : Material expressions of difference and belonging" included 11 presentations analyzing variously how museums, migrants or even MacDonald's interpret and present objects. Diasporic networks, colonial collections, and 'happy meals' all showed how distance and closeness can be influenced through material culture that is not tied to 'rooted' spaces.

"Changing Museums" was the title of a workshop focusing on how museums adapt to social transformation, with corresponding changes in power and national identities. Presentations on ethnographic museology in Serbia, France, the Soviet Union, Greece and Sweden explored processes of legitimisation - as well as tolerance and reconciliation.

As for the hosts themselves, the planning committee for the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations held "open house" several days during the conference. The museum is planned to open in Marseille in 2008, and will be based on the collections of the National museum of popular arts and traditions, presently in Paris. The authorities chose to move the museum to Marseille and give it a new theme for three reasons: it's museological focus was considered outdated, it's present facilities were inadequate, and a scholarly need to rethink the concepts of popular arts and traditions.


The museum will be housed at Fort Saint-Jean, at the entrance to Marseille harbor, together with a new museum building adjoining the fort. As part of the new focus on popular art and tradition, the museum plans to organise exhibitions on a thematic basis, rather than by period or object type. In a presentation in one of the towers of the fortress, they list five exhibition themes which will enable them to bring forth cross-cultural and trans-regional ideas: Figures of Paradise; Water; The City; The Journey; Masculine and Feminine. This can be a way of breaking down traditional barriers, and their intention to refrain from having "permanent" exhibitions can help them to keep their presentations relevant to their various publics. Read more about the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations at www.musee-europemediterranee.org

For information on other conference themes, see http://adam.mmsh.univ-aix.fr/AmongOthers/index_eng.htm

Daniel Winfree Papuga, papuga@c2i.


Editors note: The host of last years ICME conference (ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization in Sibiu, Romania) continues to be active in the preservation of intangible heritage. In ASTRA's "LIVING HUMAN TREASURES PROGRAM ACTIVITY REPORT FOR 2003", several relevant projects are described: The National Olympics Of The Traditional Handicrafts; The Folk Romanian Artizans Fair; The National Festival Of The Folk Traditions, and The Days Of The Romanian Folk Arts Academy. Of particular interest are plans for an International Centre for Knowledge and Promotion of the Folk Tradition, which is described below:

The International Centre for Knowledge and Promotion of the Folk Tradition will be an academic institution related to the Folklore International Organization (IOV). The establishment is a project of the "new IOV", destined to contribute at the renewal of the activities and duties of the organization, as well as at the intensification of the cooperation with UNESCO.

The Centre will takecare of the imaterial cultural heritage, becoming the place where students from all over the world will gather to present the traditional-cultural values, mark of the people ethno-cultural identity and of minor communities in the name of the principles which will govern the society of the future, the cultural changes and the education of all the people of the world to value the culture "of the others".

The approach and the mutual respect is possible through the knowledge of the mutual cultural value and the development of the universal comunity spirit does not exclude but on contrary allows to the own ethno-cultural specificity to be revealed, an obstacle for the cultural globalisation but not for the values of the modern civilization.

If this project will be approved we shall be able to initiate, with the help of the Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs and of the Romanian National Comittee for UNESCO, to obtain the approval of the project and finances for the development and modernization works needed for creating a certain place for accomodation, exhibitions and open air shows.

The IOV president considered the ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization the ideal frame for this Centre-"if we wish to visit a museum which really lives the ASTRA Museum, and I refer here at the Open Air Museum, being an absolute model, worth to be shown worlwide".

The scientific and cultural programmes recommend the Museum from Sibiu to assume a distinct, central role within the UNESCO project in the special circumstances to safeguard, to protect and to develop the spiritual cultural traditions of all the people of the world.

Our project refers to obtain an international status and a "student cultural centre", role meant for annual summer reunions of young students from all over the world who will debate on their own ethno-cultural traditions through scientific, educational, turistic and exhibitional presentations.

In the context of the officializing the UNESCO project, by signing the International Convention of Preserving the Immaterial Cultural Heritage by all world states governments, the initiative forwarded by IOV to create the International University Centre (project enthusiastically joined by Lucian Blaga University – ten faculties and 20,000 students) to promote scientific and educational disciplines concerning knowledge, assimilation and spreading of the traditional art and culture, initiative followed by the project of the International Centre for Knowledge and Promotion of the Folk Tradition at Sibiu could be considered IOV and Romania's most important contribution to save and protect the ethno-identitary cultures, the cultural traditions specific to each community.

For more information on projects within Intangible Heritage at ASTRA Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization, visit http://www.muzeulastra.ro/tezaure/en_index.php


The objective of this competition is to promote creative interpretations of intangible heritage through the use of interactive multimedia tools and digital storytelling technologies, in result giving new life and new forms of visibility to living communities.

Not only would such virtual artistic expressions demonstrate innovative ways of expressing intangible heritage, they would also bring about interactive platforms for a better mutual understanding of each other's heritage.

Within this context, the competition especially seeks to encourage young practitioners in various fields of creativity related to digital technology, to reflect on the theme of intangible heritage and to send project proposals for a multimedia production, including online websites.

The competition is organized in line with ICOM 2004 / 21st General Assembly (2-8 October 2004, Seoul, Republic of Korea), coordinated by Art Center Nabi with the support of ICOM, AVICOM, the Korean National Commission for UNESCO (KNCU), and UNESCO, especially within the framework of the UNESCO DigiArts Portal.

The themes of the storytelling project proposals should be within the two major frameworks of:

A. Artistic/Creative

i) Recreating intangible heritage using multimedia tools, in forms of websites or CD Roms.

ii) Creative interpretation of living culture as intangible heritage and the presentation of it in digital formats.

B. Educational/Community Oriented

i) Sharing and exchanging knowledge on Intangible Heritage by establishing collaborative platforms, online networks and digital communities.

All submissions must reach Art Center Nabi by 18 September 2004.

For more information, see http://www.nabi.or.kr/heritage/


The Journal of Museum Ethnography is seeking contributions for its Research Notes, Exhibition Reviews and Book Reviews sections. Research Notes should concern current research in museum ethnography or material anthropology. Exhibition reviews may be of any museum exhibition or display with ethnographic content, whether permanent or temporary. A list of books available for review can be obtained from the Book Reviews Editor. Suggestions for books to review are also welcome. Book and exhibition reviews should be between 1000-1500 words in length; research notes should be up to 2000 words. All submissions may include up to two illustrations. The Journal of Museum Ethnography is a peer-reviewed journal. For further information and Notes for Contributors, please contact:

Fiona Kerlogue, Research Notes Editor, fkerlogue@horniman.ac.uk

Alison Brown, Exhibition Reviews Editor, alison.k.brown@cls.glasgow.gov.uk

Claire Warrior, Book Reviews Editor, cwarrior@nmm.ac.uk

Donna Sharp, Editor, Journal of Museum Ethnography, donnasharpjme@aol.com



AFRICOM is pleased to announce 8-week internship opportunities to Museum Professionals in Africa, commencing January 2005. The programme is aimed at African museum professionals below the age of 40 years, with at least two years’ experience in a museum or related heritage organisation. Applications are welcome from educators, exhibition and public programmes staff in African museums, or those identified as having potential to work in these fields. Priority will be given to AFRICOM members. Two interns will be accepted for each 8-week session. The internships will be tied to the AFRICOM Secretariat in Nairobi, located within the National Museum of Kenya (NMK) complex. AFRICOM will offer full scholarships to cover return travel (including visa cost if any), accommodation, and subsistence allowance. Interns will be jointly housed in a two-bedroom, furnished flat (apartment). Please note that one may be required to travel within the country as part of the internship. The deadline for receiving the application form is 30th November 2004.

For the official announcement and application form, please contact:

Lorna Abungu, Executive Director, International Council of African Museums - AFRICOM

Museum Hill Road P.O. Box 38706, Ngara 00600 Nairobi, KENYA

tel. 254-20-3748668, fax. 254-20-3748928, africom@museums.or.ke


I am a phd student in archaeology at Flinders University in South Australia. The focus of my research is childbirth in prehistory. At present I am examining ethnographic and anthropological research relating to childbirth.

These accounts outline evidence for birth such as birthing huts, umbilical cord tools and charms for a successful birth. However, archaeological evidence for these items appears to be extremely scarce. I have been in contact with over seventy museums in five continents to ascertain if their museum collections include any items (such as those outlined) directly related to childbirth. I was wondering if any ICME museums contain reference to any such items. I'd greatly appreciate any advice/references or suggestions from ICME members regarding this to me at the address below.

Emer O'Donnell, emero_donnell@hotmail.com


September 8-12: "Face to face: Connecting distance and proximity", European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), 8th bi-annual conference, Vienna, Austria. http://www.easaonline.org/, http://www.univie.ac.at/voelkerkunde/easa/

September 16-19, 20-21: "The Best in Heritage" and "Heritologia - The International Heritage Studies Forum", Dubrovnik, Croatia. http://www.thebestinheritage.com/

September 23-25: "Festivals and Communities: Realising the Potential", 14th annual IFEA Europe Conference - Sheffield, UK. http://www.tourism-culture.com/partnerpop.asp?uid=107040866&ID=102

September 27 - October 3: 15th International Ethnological Food Research Conference (in association with SIEF), Dubrovnik, Croatia, Theme: 'Mediterranean Food And Its Influences Abroad' http://www.meertens.knaw.nl/sief/dnl/15th_IEFR-Conference.doc

September 27-28: "From Digitisation to Creating Cultural Experience(s)", Salzburg Research eCulture Symposium, Salzburg, Austria. http://eculture.salzburgresearch.at

October 1: Deadline for paper proposals for "Folk Narrative Theories and Contemporary Practices" 14th Congress of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research (ISFNR), to be held July 26-31, 2005 in Tartu, Estonia. http://www.folklore.ee/isfnr/

October 2-8: "Museums and Intangible Heritage", ICOM General Conference, Seoul, Korea. http://www.icom2004.org/

October 13-17: "Folklore and the Cultural Landscape" American Folklore Society’s 116th annual meeting, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. http://afsnet.org/annualmeet/index.cfm

October 14-17: "The folk costume - symbol of cultural identity", IV. International Conference of Ethnographic museums from Central and South/Eastern Europe, Sibiu, Romania. Details from teodorapuia@yahoo.com or mirela969@yahoo.co.uk http://www.muzeulastra.ro

October 25-30: ASTRA FILM FEST 2004, international festival of documentary film & visual anthropology, Sibiu, Romania. http://www.astrafilm.ro

November 1: Deadline for paper proposals for the international conference on "Material Cultures and the Creation of Knowledge", to be held at the UNIVERSITY of EDINBURGH, UK, July 22-24, 2005. http://www.arts.ed.ac.uk/chb/matcult2005/

November: Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, New York, USA. http://www.amnh.org/mead

November 13: "Research Frontiers in European Ethnology", 8th Research Seminar in European Ethnology University of the West of England, Bristol, UK. http://www.uwe.ac.uk/hlss/ces/events.shtml

November 17-21: "Magic, Science and Religion", Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), San Francisco, CA, USA. http://www.aaanet.org

December 14-18: "Post Traditional Environments in a Post Global World", Ninth Conference of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments, Sharjah/Dubai, UAE. http://www.arch.ced.berkeley.edu/research/iaste/2004%20conference.htm

November 19-20: "Clusters, districts, and networks of tangible, intangible, and material cultural heritage in the Non-EU Mediterranean countries", workshop at the University of Turin, Italy. http://www.eblacenter.unito.it/workshop2004.html

November 20: "Multiple versions of the world", a conference celebrating Bateson’s centennial and his continued influence, Berkeley, CA, USA. http://www.BatesonConference.org

November 29 - December 1: "Pre-Columbian Textiles : Past, Present and Future", 3rd International Conference on Pre-Columbian Textiles, Barcelona, Spain. Deadline for abstracts: June 30th http://www.estudisprecolombins.org/jornadasdebarcelona

December 15-19: "Strategies for Development of Indigenous People" and "Mega Urbanization, Multi-ethnic Society, Human Rights and Development": IUAES 2004 Inter-Congress, Kolkata and Ranchi, India. http://www.leidenuniv.nl/fsw/iuaes/10-01-CALCUTTACONGRESS.HTM

April 4-7, 2005: "Creativity and cultural improvisation", ASA 2005 Conference, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK. http://www.theasa.org/conferences.htm

April 5-10, 2005: "Heritage, Environment and Tourism", annual conference of the Society for Applied Anthropology. Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. http://www.sfaa.net

July 19-23, 2005: "Pacific Arts Association Eighth International Symposium", Salem, Massachusetts, USA. http://www.pacificarts.org/

ICME - International Committee for Museums and Collections of Ethnography


Editors: Espen Wæhle & Daniel W. Papuga

Mailing address: ICME, Ethnographic Collection, The National Museum of Denmark,
12. Frederiksholms Kanal, DK-1220 Copenhagen K, Denmark,
tel.: +4533473206/03/04, fax.: +4533473320,
e-mail: editor@icme.icom.museum

Deadline for next issue, no 39: November 1, 2004

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