Smithsonian Board of Regents Votes To Return 29 Benin Bronzes to Nigeria

June 13, 2022
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The Smithsonian Board of Regents voted today, June 13, to deaccession 29 Benin bronzes held in the National Museum of African Art’s collection. The bronzes, which were removed during the 1897 British raid of Benin City, will be returned to Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments at a later date.

On April 29, the Smithsonian adopted an ethical returns policy as part of the Institution’s overall Collections Management policy. The new policy authorizes each Smithsonian museum to return collections, in appropriate circumstances, based on ethical considerations. In certain cases, such as the Benin bronzes, the board is required to approve the deaccession and return of objects when they are of significant monetary value, research or historical value, or when the deaccession might create significant public interest.

The Board of Regents approved the following motion: 
“VOTED that the Board of Regents approves the Secretary’s request to deaccession twenty-nine (29) Benin Kingdom court style artworks in the collection of the National Museum of African Art and transfer title and return the artworks to Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments as the representative of the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

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Linda St. Thomas


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