The British Museum: An Imperial Museum in a Post-Imperial World

Emily Duthie

Abstract


This article examines the British Museum’s imperialist attitudes towards classical heritage. Despite considerable pressure from foreign governments, the museum has consistently refused to return art and antiquities that it acquired under the aegis of empire. It is the contention of this article that the British Museum remains an imperialist institution. The current debates over the British Museum’s collections raise profound questions about the relationship between museums and modern nation states and their nationalist claims to ancient heritage. The museum’s inflexible response to repatriation claims also encapsulates the challenges inherent in presenting empire and its legacy to contemporary, post-imperial audiences.

Keywords


British Museum; Cultural imperialism; Cultural repatriation

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