The heritage of a country is something it’s people hold dearest to their hearts. It is a representation of themselves, of their cultures, it is their identity. Heritage can be defined as
“valued objects and qualities such as historic buildings and cultural traditions that have been passed down from previous generations.”
It consists of a country’s customs, traditions, history, background and culture. To it’s people, the heritage of their country is an aspect of their very being. Cultural, historic artifacts represent a facet of a country’s history, and it’s people take pride in it, because it represents a part of them, because it is a part of their identity. These cultural and historic artifacts, belong to a heritage that people are proud of. Therefore, it can be pointed out that by taking away an artifact of a country, you’d be robbing it of a part of their heritage, and robbing them of a part of their identity.
Through history, what is now considered as historically or culturally significant, artifacts have been looted time and time again by foreigners, during colonialism, imperialism or war. At present, so many culturally and historically significant artifacts hailing from great civilizations are being displayed to the public in foreign museums. In my opinion, an artifact belongs in it’s country of origin, because it is a part of the cultural heritage of its people. History is suppose to serve as a reminder to it’s people of what they have been through, of their cultural roots, of how they made it to where they are today. Historic artifacts serve as a tangible reminder to it’s people and a tangible representation of their identity. Such artifacts must be displayed for the benefit of the people of it’s origins, not just for the scholars and educated to study. Which is why so many countries are demanding the repatriation of their artifacts from foreign museums back to their country of origin.
Repatriation is defined as “the restoration of (an artifact or other object) to its country or place of origin,” There are several examples of artifacts whose repatriation is being demanded by it’s country of origin. My first example is of Egypt seeking repatriation of the bust of Queen Nefetiti, currently on display at the Neues Museum of Berlin. Greece is seeking repatriation of the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum. In our own country’s case, there are various Sri Lankan artifacts being displayed in museums all over the world. It is in my opinion that if the country of origin has the ability and the resources to maintain and preserve these artifacts so that they may be appreciated by everyone in a safe environment, then these artifacts should be returned to their rightful place.
Although it is arguable that if the country does not have the ability to maintain and preserve artifacts originating from there, it would be in the best interest of those who wish to preserve the artifacts to let the artifacts remain in the foreign museums where there is appropriate funding and resources to maintain them. It is also arguable that artifacts should be present for public display to the largest audience. When artifacts on display in “encyclopedia museums” like the British Museum, Louvre, Metropolitan Museum of Art etc. are moved back to their country of origin, it would be viewed and thereby appreciated by fewer people. Therefore by keeping such artifacts in prominent museums around the world, the appreciation for the artifact and the curiosity for the history behind the artifact would be developed.