Brighton Museum & Art Gallery opened in 1873 during the reign of Queen Victoria. Like other institutions at the time, its development took place alongside the growth of the British Empire.
Many of the objects which joined our collections were brought to the UK by British people from countries that were then British colonies.
The Museum holds material brought back from specific imperial campaigns. These include raids by British forces on Kumasi, capital of the Ashanti kingdom (in present-day Ghana) in 1874 and on Benin City (in present-day Nigeria) in 1897.
Some of our objects were brought back by people who worked as colonial administrators, missionaries, explorers and military officials.
We’ve been reflecting on what it means to hold colonial-era collections and, like museums elsewhere in the UK and across Europe, we realise we need to do more to be open about the way these objects were collected.
We are committed to sharing information as widely as possible about these collections and are gradually going through them, involving communities in the UK and in countries of origin where possible.
For example, Royal Pavilion & Museums are currently working with the National Museum of Botswana and the Khama III Memorial Museum on a collection of objects that came from the missionary William Charles Willoughby. A selection of these objects will be returned, on loan in the first instance, to the Khama III Memorial Museum in 2020.
Returning objects to the country of origin
Royal Pavilion & Museums have national accreditation which means that how we look after our collections is guided by a Collections Development Policy [PDF].
This states that when considering whether to return objects to countries of origin, the museum will make decisions “on a case by case basis; within its legal position and taking into account all ethical implications and available guidance”.
We encourage any individual, group or organisation wishing to make a claim for the return of an object or objects to get in touch with us at Royal Pavilion & Museums through our online enquiry form.