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Succesful online conference: Imperial Artefacts

On January 28 and 29, 2021 the conference ‘Imperial Artefacts: History, Law and the Looting of Cultural Property’ took place online. This first of its kind event at Leiden University was an interdisciplinary online conference and brought together (post-)colonial historians, legal historians, curators, international lawyers, art historians, anthropologists, and others engaged with the field of restitution.

The goal of this event was to establish research collaborations, by critically investigating stories of colonial looting, the framing of colonial history within museums, the origins of the legal framework concerning European laws of war and restitution, as well as a way forward for restitution claims. Throughout the two-day online event, an array of topics was presented and discussed that crossed borders, continents, as well as legal and cultural battles linked to repatriation and restitution debates. The general theme of the conference was the interaction between current restitution cases, (art)historical, legal, anthropological, and curatorial approaches.

Success despite the ongoing pandemic

Everything was kicked off with a warm welcome to the speakers and audience by the two organisers Inge van Hulle and Diana M. Natermann. They expressed their delight of the conference taking place despite or in spite of our ongoing global health crisis and by the fact, that the speakers offered an international and diverse collection of contributions in terms of professional, national, and topical backgrounds. During the closing remarks at the end of the second day, the organisers voiced their gratitude for an amazing array of papers given, discussions had, and active audience as well as functioning technology.

Overall, both keynotes had around 120-140 listeners, and all panels between 75-100 people attending. The online format allowed a degree of participation from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the USA that otherwise would never have been impossible. Both speakers and audience alike dealt graciously with different global time zones to attend this event. Further events are planned as well as a publication. 

For a full list of speakers and topics see the conference website or @ImperialArtefa1. A full report of the conference can be downloaded here.

Future events

Due to the successful turn out for this topic, a follow-up conference and workshop are planned in late 2021 or early 2022 together with the Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt, Germany. Furthermore, an edited volume is planned.

On a related note: Diana M. Natermann is planning another event this 14 June 2021 at Leiden University titled: Unwanted Histories. The legacies of contested monuments and objects: new homes, new interpretations, new meanings. See here for the CFP link.

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