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A Benin Bronze from the collection of the British Museum. Photo: Son of Groucho/Flickr.
A Benin Bronze from the collection of the British Museum. Photo: Son of Groucho/Flickr.

National Museum of Ireland Makes Plans to Return Benin Bronzes

The National Museum of Ireland (NMI), Dublin, is the latest European institution to announce plans to repatriate its share of the renowned Benin Bronzes, part of a trove of more than 90,000 objects looted from what is now Nigeria by British troops in 1897 and scattered across the Continent, The Times reports. The museum joins Scotland’s Aberdeen University, which in March was the first to commit to returning its lone object; the Church of England; and German institutions including Berlin’s Humboldt Forum in doing so.

NMI has said it is working on returning twenty-one of the objects to Nigeria; while no official path forward has yet been revealed, officials acknowledged that the museum will make “restitution in full” in regard to the artifacts. The announcement puts further pressure on London’s British Museum, home to more than one thousand of the stolen objects, and Paris’s Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac, which already has plans to repatriate twenty-six of its objects, to return their collections, as activists for years have pushed them to do.

As more institutions are expected to return their share of the plundered treasures as peer and activist pressure mounts, according to Artnews, academics are pushing back against the repeated concern that the bronzes will be no safer back on their home turf due to the claim that many Nigerian museums lack the proper climate control. A number of the returning bronzes are destined for the Edo Museum of African Art; slated to open in 2025 in Benin City, the museum, designed by David Adjaye, is expected to have climate control and storage systems synonymous with those of its Western counterparts.

“Of course, we do have our problems, in terms of the state of our museums in the country, but that will not remain as it is forever,” said Abba Isa Tijani, of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments. “We have our plans to build more museums. That’s why the EMOWAA museum is a bold step.”