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Repatriation at the Brooklyn Museum

While it is becoming more common for museums in the western world to return antiquities to their country of origin, it is still rather uncommon for such museums to do so by choice, without any legal obligation.

Nonetheless, the Brooklyn Museum is attempting to return objects exported from Costa Rica by the founder of the United Fruit Company at the end of the 19th century. The Museum is also facing some uncommon difficulties in so doing.

For over a decade, the Brooklyn Museum has been culling its collection, in an effort to dispose of those items which are not being exhibited. Having decided that these Costa Rican objects are not being utilized, they were offered to the National Museum of Costa Rica. It took some time to get the National Museum to accept, and now taking it is taking more time for the National Museum to raise the $59,000 needed for shipment.

According to Kate Taylor at the New York Times, the Director of the National Museum of Costa Rica said that,

“there were no legal issues surrounding the Brooklyn Museum’s ownership of the objects, since they left the country before a 1938 Costa Rican law restricting export of archaeological artifacts. Still, she said, she looked forward to repatriating the pieces whenever the museum could find the money.”

Read the article at the New York Times