Scotland’s Glasgow Museums has become the first cultural body in the United Kingdom to agree to return stolen artifacts from India.
On Friday, delegates from the Indian High Commission attended a ceremony at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum at which seven objects were handed over. Six of them were looted from shrines and temples across northern Indian during the 19th century; among them is a carved sandstone relief of a male figure and dog. Several of the objects are believed to be around 1,000 years old.
The seventh item, a ceremonial sword, or a tulwar, was stolen in 1905 from the collection of the ruler of Hyderabad, the capital of the southern Indian state of Telangana. The sword was sold to the British general Sir Archibald Hunter, and all seven items were later gifted to the Glasgow Museums.
At the ceremony, Sujit Ghosh, acting Indian high commissioner, thanked Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council for their role in returning the artifacts, saying, “These artifacts are an integral part of our civilizational heritage and will now be sent back home.”
Glasgow Museums, a government entity comprised of 11 cultural institutions, has been active in repatriation efforts since 1998, when the city agreed to return a Lakota artifact stolen following the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, when almost 300 Lakota were killed by United States troops.
More recently, the museums service has been in talks to repatriate 19 Benin Bronzes looted from the Kingdom of Benin (present-day Nigeria) during a British expedition in 1897. In June, Glasgow Museums welcomed a delegate from Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments to formalize the details of the transfer of ownership of the artifacts.
Bailie Annette Christie, chair of Glasgow Life and convenor for culture, sport and international relations for Glasgow City Council, said in a statement that the “agreement reached with the government of India is another example of Glasgow’s commitment to addressing past wrongs and remaining transparent when explaining how objects arrived in the city’s museum collections.”