Met Artifact Return Highlights Museums' Legal, Ethical Risks

Law360 (July 12, 2021, 5:21 PM EDT) -- The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City recently made headlines with the announcement of its decision[1] to return three artifacts to Nigeria: a pair of 16th-century Benin court brass plaques of a warrior chief and junior court official, and a 14th-century Ife head.

This move followed similar announcements by Scotland's University of Aberdeen and Germany's Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, and is indicative of a growing repatriation movement.

The Met's decision signals a movement toward conscientious conservatorship rooted in ethical concern. However, the complex U.S. regulations governing the trade of artwork and cultural property often make repatriation a legal matter...

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