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In a Landmark Move, the Smithsonian Will Return Benin Bronzes in Its Collection to Nigeria

The move comes as the Smithsonian works to develop a new institution-wide restitution policy.

Making good on a recent pledge, the Smithsonian Institution will repatriate Benin Bronzes in its collection to their homeland of Nigeria.

The news, first reported by the Washington Post, comes as the Smithsonian works to develop a new restitution policy and signals a major ideological shift that could have major implications for U.S. museums.

In total, “most” of the institution’s 39 bronzes, many of which were looted by British soldiers in the notorious raid of Benin’s royal palace in 1897, will be deaccessioned, a spokesperson told Artnet News. (The representative clarified that the organization is still working to determine the provenance of some of the objects, and thus a final tally of the pieces to be returned has not yet been determined.) The institution has an agreement with Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments to coordinate the return.

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