EAA-session on De-colonisation

At the forthcoming EAA annual conference in Bern, September 4-7, 2019, we would like to draw your attention to the following session:


Theme: archaeological_heritage_and_museum_management

Twenty-five years ago, when the first annual meeting of the EAA took place, the term ‘decolonisation’ was practically unknown. De-colonisation today forms a major challenge in heritage management, and represents a growing issue, both between European states and outside Europe. The case that successive Greek governments have made to Britain for the repatriation of the Parthenon marbles, for example, is still unresolved, while in France, the country’s president recently called for the restitution of African cultural patrimony from French museums over the next five years.

We will discuss different approaches in Europe and beyond as to how the objects concerned are identified, how/if they are ’repatriated’, and how politics are involved, as well as social-economic consequences for the museums concerned and for the communities to which cultural material is restored.

The contribution that conservators and archaeological scientists make to public concepts of the ‘ownership’ of cultural heritage can help to structure and support contemporary de-colonisation in a positive way.

In this session we seek to examine:

  • what are the best practices for dealing with archaeological artefacts “collected” (in retrospect, sometimes looted?) from sites in former colonial nations;
  • how conservation and scientific analysis help inform the archaeological narrative;
  • who, in an era of public funding cuts, will be responsible for the scientific analysis of archaeological sites and artefacts;
  • how digital solutions, such as virtual reality, can be successfully used as innovative mediation methods in archaeology, e.g. with regard to human remains, and in reconstruction of sites andobjects;
  • and what strategies can be recommended for artefact storage and presentation.

In this session we aim to encourage considerate discussion of the evolving contribution of archaeological conservation and the political and social-economic impacts of decolonisation in the 21st century, 25 years on from the founding of the EAA.

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