National Museums Scotland has been a member of the Benin Dialogue Group since 2019. This collaborative working group brings together museum directors and delegates from Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom with representatives of the Edo State Government, the Royal Court of Benin, and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria.
The Benin Dialogue Group vision is to:
[E]stablish a new Royal Museum to reunite in Benin City the most significant of Benin’s historical artefacts, currently in various locations around the world. The Museum will showcase the rich history and culture of the Benin Kingdom from the earliest archaeological evidence to contemporary creative expressions, in recognition of the fact that Benin City continues to be a vibrant artistic centre. The museum will be founded as a place of remembrance, education and inspiration for the people of the Benin Kingdom and audiences from around the world.
The Benin Dialogue Group recognizes that the looting of Benin City in 1897 is the main source of objects from the Benin Kingdom now held by museums all over the world. Acknowledging the deep loss that this event caused, the members of the Benin Dialogue Group share knowledge regarding various initiatives across Europe that are seeking to address the questions of return and restitution. There are national, international and institutional legal complexities that govern issues of return and restitution, particularly as member museums are from different countries and jurisdictions with different laws and regulations. The Benin Dialogue Group continues to share information and update partners on changes and to provide support in this continuing conversation.
National Museums Scotland’s policy on requests for the return of objects to their country or location of origin is that we consider each on a case-by-case basis. Our procedure for considering requests to undertake international transfers can be found in our Collections Policies.
As a further outcome of the Benin Dialogue Group, we are working with the Digital Benin project to understand and share more about the provenance of the Benin collection. This digital project is surveying and listing Benin collections and documentary and photographic archives from around the world to be included in a future online resource for research.