Hard bargaining, Museums face claims for return of artefacts
Four French museums, the Louvre, the Quai Branly, the French National Library, and the Rouen Museum, are faced with pressing demands for the return of works of art. The number of demands is multiplying. They come from all over the world, and in particular from Egypt, Mali and New Zealand. The question of returning works of art to their countries of origin is increasingly making news. Take for example the emotions aroused by President Sarkozy’s decision, on the 12th November 2010, to return 297 royal manuscripts to South Korea. The ensuing row involved diametrically opposed points of view. Was it a violation of the principle of inalienability of France’s national collections or was it a just reparation for the victims of colonization? The rich countries’ great museums and the countries of origin have completely different visions of the issue. The museums defend the idea of a universal museum whose works belong to the whole of humanity. The countries of origin struggle to bring their heritage back home to its birthplace.