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The fabulous collections housed in the world's most famous museums are trophies from an imperial age. Yet the huge crowds that each year visit the British Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris, or the Metropolitan in New York have little idea that many of the objects on display were acquired by coercion or theft.
Now the countries from which these treasures came would like them back. The Greek demand for the return of the Elgin Marbles is the tip of an iceberg that includes claims for the Benin Bronzes from Nigeria, sculpture from Turkey, scrolls and porcelain taken from the Chinese Summer Palace, textiles from Peru, the bust of Nefertiti, Native American sacred objects and Aboriginal human remains.
In Keeping Their Marbles, Tiffany Jenkins tells the bloody story of how western museums came to acquire these objects. She investigates why repatriation claims have soared in recent decades and demonstrates how it is the guilt and insecurity of the museums themselves that have stoked the demands for return. Contrary to the arguments of campaigners, she shows that sending artefacts back will not achieve the desired social change nor repair the wounds of history.
Instead, this ground-breaking book makes the case for museums as centres of knowledge, demonstrating that no object has a single home and no one culture owns culture.
1: Great Explorers and Curious Collectors
2: The Birth of the Public Museum
3: Antiquity Fever
4: Cases of Loot
5: Museum Wars
6: Who Owns Culture?
7: The Rise of Identity Museums
8: Atonement: Making Amends for Past Wrongs
9: Burying Knowledge: The Fate of Human Remains
Tiffany Jenkins is an author, academic, broadcaster and columnist who for four years wrote a weekly column on social and cultural issues in the Scotsman. Her writing credits include BBC Culture, Apollo, the Independent, the Art Newspaper, the Guardian and Spectator. She has consulted widely in academia and museums on cultural policy, most recently advising scholars and practitioners at the University of Oslo, the Norwegian Theatres and Orchestras, and the National Touring Network for Performing Arts. As part of this, she contributed a comparative study of cultural education in England and Norway. She was previously the director of the Arts and Society Programme at the Institute of Ideas and has been a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, Department of Law. Her first degree is in art history, her PhD in sociology. She divides her time between London and Edinburgh.
"Books of the year 2016"
– Francis Phillips, Catholic Herald
"Ms. Jenkins has produced a courageous and well-argued book; the howls you hear in the background are those of the contrition crowd."
– Wall Street Journal
"Brilliant and fascinating"
– James Delingpole, Spectator
"The dubious means by which museum collections were gathered has fuelled the demands for treasures to be repatriated. Surely they ought to be returned? No, says Tiffany Jenkins, a culture writer, and she marshals a powerful case."
– Robbie Millen, The Times
"This book is both a lucid account of how the great world museums came by their treasures and a robust argument as to why (human remains such as bones aside) they should keep them."
– Michael Prodger, RA Magazine
"An outstanding achievement, clear-headed, wide-ranging and incisive."
– John Carey, The Sunday Times
"Tiffany Jenkins applies her considerable experience of cultural policy to construct an excellent survey [...] Her level-headed and balanced book [...] is a valuable contribution to the international debate, and will enrich audiences and scholars for a long time to come."
– Mark Fisher, Spectator
"[Jenkins] has much of interest to say about the development of museums and their changing ideology."
– Peter Jones, BBC History magazine
"[An] eloquent defence of museums [...] The arguments in this book are well-considered and not just one-sided [...] A well-researched and thought-provoking take on a very complex and controversial subject. Using an array of captivating examples, the book addresses a range of broader heritage issues such as treatment of human remains, the role of museums today and how to protect the past."
– Lucia Marchini, Minerva
"Jenkins does an excellent job of portraying the extreme reactions elicited by repatriation conversations."
– David Hurst Thomas, Nature
"clear, informed and well-referenced [...] Specialists, and anyone with an interest in contemporary culture, can equally enjoy and learn from this calm, balanced and respectful review, in a field distinguished more by polemic than wisdom."
– Mike Pitts, British Archaeology
"Jenkin's book provides a welcome introduction to some of the questions facing museums today."
– William St Clair, Literary Review
"an elegant and passionate study of the rise of the great museums, and their recent lapse into self-dismemberment [...] This is a book not just about the fate of the modern museum, or the objects stored within, but the fate of the Enlightenment spirit itself."
– Tom Slater, Spiked
"[Jenkins] elegantly lines up the arguments and provides careful, balanced and well-considered responses."
– Adrian Spooner, Classics for All
"Jenkins skilfully critiques the manifold issues that beleaguer museums today."
– David Lowenthal, Evening Standard
"Anyone who thinks that issues of cultural property and "repatriation" are simple should read this book. Jenkins elegantly explores the complexity of individual cases such as the Elgin Marbles and of the big overarching question: who owns culture?"
– Mary Beard, author of SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
"The question of how best to protect the world's cultural heritage, and what role museums, nations states, and international bodies play in doing so, or in not doing so, is a vexed one. And in the time of IS, it is an urgent one. Tiffany Jenkins sets out a clear, compelling, and at times controversial case for, and sometimes against, museums as repositories and interpreters of the past in a time of nation building. She argues that we are asking too much of our museums, that we want them to serve narrow ideological purposes of cultural and political identity. There is much to agree with in this argument, and of course, much with which to disagree. That's what makes this book a must-read."
– James Cuno, art historian, author, and President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust