IPC00053F -Argumentative Essay Reassessment


University of York



Module Code

Museums' Moral Responsibility: The Return of Cultural Items to their Country of Origin

Write your answer here:I. Introduction The allure of museums frequently draws visitors in by transporting them over time and space as they offer vistas into the enormous tapestry of human history and many civilizations. Behind this apparent attraction is a significant ethical challenge: where should cultural things go in these groups, especially when they come from different places (Godwin, 2020)? The ethical requirement to return cultural objects to their places of origin is a touchy subject that resonates throughout the venerated halls of museums all across the world. This issue is examined in the essay. In a time marked by increased cultural awareness and a rising understanding of legacy, the issue of repatriation has evolved into a defining touchstone of museums’ moral compass. Underneath the outward beauty of great things lies a complex web of historical context, ownership rights, and ethical dilemmas. This essay delves into the centre of this complex argument in order to investigate the nuanced moral obligations of museums with regard to the return of cultural objects. The inquiry is broken down into three main sections, each of which explores the case for repatriation in more depth. The first portion emphasizes the fundamental connection between cultural custodianship and the positioning of items in their proper locations. Furthering this point by describing the negative effects of removing objects from their native locations, the second section highlights the need of maintaining cultural authenticity. The third portion, which focuses on moral and legal issues, examines how international conventions for the preservation of cultural property and efforts at repatriation can coexist. II. Points Supporting Your Position A. Museums’ Cultural Responsibility According to Robertson (2019), many of the cultural artefacts that adorn museum halls have histories that are intimately connected to the countries from whence they originated. Museums have a moral responsibility to protect these artefacts that cross international boundaries. For example, the tale of the Rosetta Stone is a symbol representing the complexity of prehistoric languages. Its repatriation to Egypt would serve as proof that museums are aware of the deep relationships that exist between these objects and their original cultures. As contrasted by Paquette (2019), the British Museum’s investigation into the right placement of these artefacts marks a significant step toward striking a balance between historical heritage and current ethical norms. B. Preservation of Cultural Integrity According to Brown (2019), an artefact’s cultural meaning is inextricably linked to the rituals, concepts, and myths that define its setting. Before being presented in foreign museums, these items frequently have their rich tapestry removed. They no longer have their true cultural relevance as a result of this separation. For instance, sacred tribal masks are extremely important to their tribes spiritually. As contradicted by Sandahl (2019), the Kwakwaka’wakw tribe’s recovery of ancestral masks and repatriation resurrects these objects as living representations of cultural heritage, gives them life again in their native location, and permits a more comprehensive interpretation. C. Legal and Ethical Implications Repatriation’s legal ramifications represent a concerted effort to make amends for past wrongs. As pointed out by Kist (2019), international agreements like the UNESCO convention and bilateral agreements stress the importance of returning artefacts obtained unlawfully or under duress. As mentioned by Moreno (2019), the moral quandary is dramatically shown by the Elgin Marbles, which were once kept inside the Parthenon. By returning these marbles to Greece, museums can redeem a time in history marred by colonial pillage. This restitution transforms museums into instruments for righting previous wrongs by bringing them into alignment with equality and justice values. The discussion’s concepts are supported by a widespread understanding of the importance of cultural artefacts. As context by De Barros et al. (2021), the message is obvious when viewed through the prisms of museums’ cultural responsibility, the maintenance of authenticity, and the legal and ethical requirement: the items that bear witness to humanity’s vast tapestry deserve more than a passive existence in far-off galleries. Their objectives include reconnecting with the origin stories that gave rise to them, creating relationships across time and place, and acting as catalysts for intercultural discussion that is enriched by respect for many cultural traditions. III. Counterarguments Against the Stance A. Counterargument 1 Critics such as Morse and Munro (2018) claim that cultural artefacts are better safeguarded and that museums offer better accessibility. They contend that repatriation would result in poorer treatment or restricted access because not all countries have the infrastructure or capacity to preserve these goods. Modern temperature control and conservation facilities are frequently found at museums in wealthy nations, increasing the life of artefacts (Lu et al., 2022). For instance, the outstanding preservation conditions for the Rosetta Stone display at the British Museum ensure its durability and accessibility to a large audience. Rebuttal to Counterargument 1 Even though some museums have cutting-edge artefact preservation infrastructure, repatriation should not mean subpar treatment. According to Acker (2021), collaboration among museums from many nations might close this gap. When they return, foreign institutions can provide their knowledge, resources, and technical breakthroughs to help with artefact preservation. By working together, there can be a decrease in the possibility of negligence and upholding the moral obligation to restore these objects to their rightful owners (Konev et al., 2019). Additionally, rotating exhibits may be set up, enabling rapid exhibitions at foreign museums while preserving the objects’ link to their original sites. B. Counterargument 2 According to sceptics like Alsuhly and Khattab (2018), Repatriation might lead to cultural isolation; they contend that bringing antiquities back to their native sites runs the danger of confining them to a particular cultural setting and obstructing cross-cultural communication and global knowledge. The vast collection at the Louvre, which covers multiple cultures and civilizations, is a fantastic example of the intriguing experience that museums can provide by fusing several cultural narratives under one roof (Grassini et al., 2017). Rebuttal to Counterargument 2 According to Morris (2019), Repatriation often encourages international communication and collaboration rather than separating civilizations. Most of the time, returning an item initiates new cross-cultural interactions and partnerships that cut over national boundaries. Due to this interplay between multiple points of view, artefacts can operate as a conduit for knowledge and a feeling of shared history (Sharif-Askari, and Abu-Hijleh, 2018). Fundamentally, repatriation acts as a catalyst for intercultural conversation, a process that acknowledges the connectivity of other cultures as a component of humanity’s common past while simultaneously respecting the integrity of each culture. IV. Conclusion The intricate web of worldwide cultural discourse is permeated by a powerful and subtle resonance regarding the question of repatriating cultural artefacts. In addition to custodianship, this subject also touches on morals, cultural legacies, and international collaboration. When seen through the prism of museums’ cultural responsibility, the preservation of cultural integrity, and legal as well as moral criteria, it is clear that objects must be returned to their countries of origin. This is due to the fact that doing so exhibits a profound understanding of shared humanity and respect for other tales. Though the problems raised by opponents are bravely presented, they pale in comparison to the moral obligation that motivates the broad acceptance of repatriation theories. Instead of just serving as places to store objects, museums play a significant part in the story of historical redemption and cultural healing. They act as the storehouse for human memory and are able to bridge gaps created by time and circumstance as well as communication across international borders. The appeal for repatriation brings together the symphony of tales in the magnificent mosaic of a museum’s mission, each of which contributes to the larger human story. We may hear the sounds of cultural objects yearning for reconnection as we reflect on the trip we took for this piece. Repatriation appears as a melodious crescendo rather than a withdrawal from the global symphony of cultural understanding.