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Colonialism and repatriation

Like many museums whose collections were largely formed in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Egypt Centre benefited from colonialisation. Sir Henry Wellcome benefitted from European access to places such as Egypt and his spending power meant that he was able to purchase items from Egypt. Additionally, later European collectors purchased items from their travels abroad, something which was not so possible for the Egyptians themselves.

The Centre regrets this state of affairs.

Some facts concerning Egypt Centre and repatriation of objects:  

  • Egypt Centre doesn’t own most of the objects in its care. They belong to the Wellcome Trust
  • Egyptian officials have never asked Egypt Centre to return objects
  • For many objects we are not sure from where in Egypt they were taken
  • The objects we have were not taken illegally from Egypt
  • Many of the objects were sold by the Egyptians to Europeans

Some other issues to consider:

  • Are the objects we have on display our heritage or those of modern Egyptians?
  • Should we ask modern Egyptians how to display their heritage?

Europeans sometimes see ancient Egypt as part of western culture but modern Egypt as not. Should we display more things from Egypt after the pharaohs?

What we plan to do:

We are open to discussions with any modern Egyptians on display of items and are hoping to have our online catalogue translated into Egyptian Arabic.

Suggestions can be sent to the curator at c.a.graves-brown@swansea.ac.uk