Returning Euphronios, Elgin and Nefertiti. Value Attribution in the Debate on Cultural Restitution and Ownership
Doornmalen, S.J. van
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the last decades, the question ‘Who owns antiquity’ has often been debated, as source nations such as Italy, Greece and Egypt have pursued the return of artefacts originating from their nation’s territory and that have ended up in museums in Western countries, such as the USA, the UK and Germany. This master’s thesis examines why different stakeholders in the cultural restitution debate want to own these antiquities and does so by examining which heritage values, namely historical, aesthetic, cultural/symbolic, scientific and economic values, are attributed to the ancient artefacts, as well as looking at arguments of preservation and accessibility. Through a comparative approach of three case studies; the Euphronios Krater, the Elgin Marbles and the Bust of Nefertiti, this thesis scrutinizes how these values are connected to ideas of ownership, by examining how the values attributed by different stakeholders are used to argue for or against their repatriation. This research shows that the cultural restitution debate differs considerably among the cases and the stakeholders. The era and the way in which an object was removed from its source nation are determinative for the type of debate that is being held. All different values attributed by the stakeholders have merit, since often these values are based on feelings of belonging and identity. I will argue that we should move away from the concept of ownership and should move towards ‘shared stewardship’ of the individual antiquities at stake here, in order to establish a solution which includes all the stakeholders and allows the different values attributed to antiquities to coexist alongside each other.