World Cultures

World Cultures

The World Cultures collection is closely linked to the history of the Ulster Museum and primarily covers material from the Arctic, Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Oceania (including Australia and New Zealand). Every object tells multiple stories of the people and places associated with it and its journey into the museum’s collection.

Objects in the collection include baskets, masks, figures, tools and weapons, clothing and jewellery.

In light of the decolonisation agenda within museums the implementation of a new approach to these collections is a priority for National Museums NI. We aim to be open and collaborative in our actions, to include multiple perspectives and encourage dialogue.

For information on our Inclusive Global Histories approach see Inclusive global histories at National Museums NI.

Repatriation News

Image: Photograph of Repatriation ceremony at Ulster Museum. Pictured left to right: Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive at National Museums NI, Dane Uluwehi Maxwell, Norman Mana Caceres, Brandy Kalehua Caceres, and Starr Kalahiki – Hui Iwi Kuamo’o, and Aaron Snipe, United States Embassy
Photograph of Repatriation ceremony at Ulster Museum. Pictured left to right: Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive at National Museums NI, Dane Uluwehi Maxwell, Norman Mana Caceres, Brandy Kalehua Caceres, and Starr Kalahiki – Hui Iwi Kuamo’o, and Aaron Snipe, United States Embassy

Following ongoing dialogue with Native Hawaiian descendants and researchers and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, National Museums NI hosted an official handover ceremony at Ulster Museum on 5th May 2022 and successfully repatriated ancestral Hawaiian human remains, iwi kūpuna, and sacred objects, mea kapu, which were part of the World Cultures collection. The repatriation process involved a private ceremony followed by a public ceremony at Ulster Museum. Hawaiian representatives, National Museums NI colleagues and delegates from the United States Embassy were in attendance.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board Chair, Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey said: “The return of the iwi kūpuna and mea kapu to this delegation of Native Hawaiians, so that they may be returned home to their final resting place, is an act of compassion and understanding that is much needed and long overdue.”

Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive at National Museums NI said: “National Museums NI believes it has legal and ethical responsibilities to redress the injustices shown to Native Hawaiian cultural values and traditions, and so through ongoing dialogue, it was agreed that these iwi kūpuna and mea kapu should be returned by repatriation to the Native Hawaiians through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a self-governing corporate body of the State of Hawai’i.”’

Repatriation and Restitution Proposals

National Museums NI welcomes enquiries about the repatriation or restitution of material in the World Cultures collections. All enquiries should be addressed to:

Anne Orr
Registrar
National Museums NI
Anne.orr@nmni.com
028 9039 5151

Please provide accession numbers (if known), information about the objects covered by the enquiry, and background as to why a return to the community of origin is being sought

Our Registrar will acknowledge receipt of the enquiry and schedule a meeting where the enquiry will be discussed in more detail. Following this meeting, and a period of further discussion and information gathering and sharing, a formal repatriation proposal may then be made to the Chief Executive Officer of National Museums NI. Our Registrar will discuss what information is required for the formal request. The Chief Executive Officer will acknowledge receipt of the formal proposal and provide an indicative timeline for the decision making process. The proposal will then be presented to National Museums NI’s Board of Trustees for their consideration, the outcome of which will be communicated to the interested parties in a timely manner.

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