I studied Native American Anthropology under a Cherokee professor, and one of the things she was involved with (a side hustle, you could say) was seeking to get stolen Native artifacts out of museum basements and back with the tribes. In one case, the museum was being stubborn that "you can't prove we stole this," so my professor tracked down the granddaughter of the woman who made the item (I think it was a ceremonial bead robe or shawl). This tribal elder explained the little tricks her grandmother used that literally no one could have known, things even the museum didn't notice until they inspected even closer, family trade secrets she still used and had taught to her own grandchildren. She made it more than abundantly clear, this belonged to her family. Back in the 1800s, her village was raided and her grandmother gangraped by White men. They ran off with anything they thought looked valuable. This included some of the young girls, livestock, head dresses, furs, and her beadwork outfits. So not only was it stolen, but in a really horrific manner. The museum had bought the majority of their Native American artifacts off a group of rapists. That was not the type of publicity they wanted, so they gave it back. This old lady wore her grandmother's robe at the next dance ceremony. All of this was around 20 years ago, so I hope her grandkids still wear that outfit at ceremonies.
Probably lost in a box somewhere instead of being shown to the public. What idiots the museum was
@@placebojesus5652 "well we could have been worse" is a very bad excuse when talking about cultural - and actual - genocide tho also two wrongs don't make a right? yes it's horrible native americans killed some of your family, but that doesn't excuse theft, murder and gangrape and it isn't an excuse to not try to right the wrongs of the past. i mean both as a general rule. i don't think europeans are especially cruel or evil. just don't make excuses because you're uncomfortable with your ancestor's history.
I love how the quote "if we said yes to one you'd soon find the British museum empty" is literally just them going mask off and saying "we won't give any of it back because we want money"
It's a free museum. I don't think anyone who works there is particularly wealthy. It continues through donations.
@mynamesnotadam but a lot of people visit London just to visit the British museum. It brings in a lot of money through tourism
@@mynamesnotadam nothing is ever technically free. The museum makes money somehow, otherwise it wouldn't stay open. There's got to be some sort of money incentive for them otherwise they wouldn't keep something that unnecessarily wastes funds.
@himarisuzuki5208 I'm no expert in its funding, but you can become a member and pay a membership, donate money, use its over priced cafe, some exhibitions charge I think. But it's main source I would be the goverment funding. Maybe. I don't do their finances. Either way a lot of museums are free and it's because they provide a function which is to educate and exhibit the story
I think it's about trust that artifacts will stay untouched and not in private hands. But obviously it doesn't make it ethical to limit access or even lending rights.
I like the idea of museums returning original objects, but also displaying reproductions. I like even better the idea of having craftspeople in the originating countries create reproductions for museums. That way it supports the continuation of the original crafts, and improves understanding of the cultural significance of the objects. But only if the craftspeople are decently paid for their work, which should go on display, not be kept in a box in storage.
there definitely need to be a industry of art reproductions, as well as international repatriation "agency" to link up with the originals and facilitate sharing and other stuff
@@PrograError I promise you, from the bottom of my heart, art reproductions of almost every type are available, particularly without the artist's consent
You are joking, aren't you?
This sounds so condescending. Artefacts created in the past, of which the context where in they were created isn't possible to recreate, should be returned to their original people, period. They shouldn't need to do all these other things you want them to do. Go recreate your own historical artefacts if you think it's so important.
This is so funny because me and my boyfriend was just at the Natural History Museum in London where there were corals that were labelled, "Corals illegal smuggled from the Philippines". My boyfriend being British (I'm Filipino) said, "I can't believe they would just snitch on themselves like that."
well... at least they were being truthful and upfront... unlike a certain legacy of certain countries... well... that's gonna poke lots of hole in lots of sensitive places.
Recently saw an item whose origin was labelled “France, probably.” Where? You guessed it. The British Museum.
Seems reasonable, if they were confiscated. They could hardly be restored, displaying them obviously raised awareness & hopefully discourages people from buying coral.
@@aiieeee5166 So? You going to tell us what it was, unless you do we won't know if there's any significance. France hasn't always been France.
You have no idea how many museums and artifacts have ended up returned because of this episode. It's so amazing what someone with a platform can actually do just by telling a true story.
If you don't mind, could you expand on this? I'd be really interested to know what has been returned.
@@hummusdifier Agreed, I'd really like to hear more from the OP about this.
Do you have any idea?
Zero. The number is zero.
@@FLdancer00 Well, she wasn't wrong. We _don't_ know how many artifacts were returned because of this episode. 😁
One of the biggest problems with the "anyone can visit it" argument is that many of them are not meant to just be visited. Many of the idols of deities from Asian countries were stolen from active worship. They would absolutely be put back into worship the minute they were returned. Many Native dresses and artifacts are still used ceremonially. These are not "history" - they were in use in the modern day.
Another Argument, A Nigerian schoolkid learning about their country's history probably can't afford to do a Pan-european roadtrip to various museums with expensive entrance fees just to see the Benin Bronzes in their near entirety.
It's like someone stealing my rice cooker and kettle then saying "Oh but you can still seeee them just go to fucking Paris"
Lets all appreciate that HBO puts all LWT episodes in almost their entirety for free on youtube without a shitton of ads.
Its cuz not everyone can afford HBO or wants HBO, verrry admirable
Well, I even have HBO (Max) and I still watch in on YT, because that's where most of the stuff I watch is. It's great that the important part is here and that it can get to so many people.
you guys having ads? 👀 👀
I’ve been saying that. It’s fantastic.
Don't put thoughts in their head ;)
“You can’t judge us in the present based on what we did in the past” ok, but in the present you are openly choosing to keep items you know are stolen, and yes, we can absolutely judge you for that
No, you cant, because you live on stolen land yourself. If you never owned it, nor your parents or grandparents never owned it, you have no claim to it. This argument of perpetuity is idiotic.
@Skozerny cool story lady
I love the payback museum. I also note that the thieves simply write laws that call their actions legal, then seem surprised at their victims anger.
Seeing those Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho people looking at their history that has been locked away in a basement is one of the saddest things I've seen in a long time.
And that shiteating grin on the guy that's showing those things to them was pretty infuriating.
Isn't it kind of odd they don't have those thing themselves though? Those items are literally things their not so distant ancestors owned. Why don't they have a plethora of them?
@Benjamin robinson If an item is scared or a family heirloom "making a new one" doesn't take away the lost memories.
A number of years ago, our family visited the British Museum. While we were looking at the Rosetta Stone, my young son asked a guard, "Did you guys steal all this stuff?" The guard's reply was, "Well. I suppose we did."
This didn’t happen
And then everyone clapped.
The guard didnt know. The Rosetta Stone was found by a French Soldier when Napoleon had invaded Egypt. Very few people, including the local Egyptians, would have recognized what it was. It is astonishly valuable because it had a proclamation in Egyptian hieroglyphics and also in ancient Greek. The French scholar Champillion painstakingly worked out what the hieroglyphics meant. Britain received the stone as part of a treaty.
@@granthurlburt4062 it was also used as part of wall if that solder though that he should leave it there, we would still have no clue, how to translate hieroglyphics
My mother inherited a piece of the Parthenon from her father that he brought home after WWll. I remember it being a doorstop growing up. She mailed it back to Greece about 15 years ago
My grandmother found out her grand parents had managed to obtain an Eaglehead dress when she was going through our family storage, she contacted a bunch of people about where it should be probably donated, the museums wanted to not only claim it and planned to put in storage , but were going to fine her for owning it. Keep in mind she was not trying to sell just send it where it should be, thankfully a native American Heritage association got ahold of her and had the legal power to defend their claim on it so it did not end up in a box in a bottom of a basement. It was really gorgoues. I wish I knew where it ended up only that it ended up with a heritage organizaiton.
I was gonna google eaglehead dress because it sounded cool, and only then realised you probably meant an eagle headdress?
That was likely a war trophy. The religious significance of a single eagle feather, let alone an entire war bonnet is too great for it to have been a gift, if genuine. And genuine ones are never sold or traded.
Damn Im white and it still blow my mind how we can still be sad fact only white people got some of their artefact returned from Denmark (im sure others small things got returned) as A dane who love vikings Im sad for people culture to be stolen
It was probably warn and destroyed by some native on a reservation rather than preserved for future antropologists to study and learn from
Imagine being so privileged and self-centered to have the audacity to think they can find somebody for having artifacts that belongs to somebody else.
Kumail absolutely crushed his bit in this, what a flawless performance 👏
We followed all the laws.
The part I find most upsetting is that in American schools (unsure about European education), Africa’s history is constantly overlooked as though they lacked culture and society. Often as a way to excuse and justify colonialism and slavery. But the culture and societal history was either stolen or destroyed throughout the continent.
I feel so lucky that while i was in high school i took the elective called AFRICAN EXPERIENCE. Which i think is pretty progressive for the sometimes backward Pennsylvania
That version of the history of colonised African states was by design. Colonialists justified their land grab by saying that there was no "civilisation" evident and the people were "savages". So tearing down the cities, universities, castles and churches was systematic, then they simply wrote the history books. Always question history books, always ask who wrote them. By the way, Ethiopia is one country that managed to retain it's cultural heritage. When you visit there, you'll understand just how much the world has lost because of the greed of the Europeans.
I honestly feel like at this point, we can really just create replicas to display and send back the originals if we really want to display stuff.
Would be much funnier to send back replicas though
Yup, with 3D modeling and printers they can recreate just about anything!
We could also send the British Museum a bunch of Robert E. Lee statues. Win-win for everyone!
I wrote about the Parthenon marbles while sitting my higher English is school when I was 16 in 2014. Being Scottish and given the political goings on in Scotland that year I called our the hypocrisy of the whole thing by talking about the scottish stone of destiny. A bit of sandstone Scottish kings where crowned for centuries. Pinched by an English King in the late 13th century, was placed at the base of his throne and only officially returned in 1996, 700 years later. Now on display at Edinburgh castle. At least scotland didn't suffer the indignity of it getting referred to as "Edward's Stone."
It's called "Spoils of War" and it was an accepted practice of medieval warfare. Numerous Scottish armies invaded England and they also carried off loot. I'm glad we're now one country and have enjoyed centuries of peace as a result.
Its so gross how often they default to the age old argument that "the law," which was written by thieves to legalize their plunder, is on their side. Really feels like "we were the aggressor, we stole it fair and square, and they couldn't do anything about it" wrapped up in a prim and proper facade, and feels very pompous.
I once saw that someone said that the only reason Egypt still has the pyramids is that they were too big to be moved to Britain
I saw it too😂
And the living accommodations isn’t roomy enough for American or Russian Oligarchs….
The tops of the pyramids were tipped with gold and i would not be surprised to find them in Britain or very possibly in the vaults of the Vatican.
Or in Turin, Italy 😅 🙊
The line “if you say yes to [giving back one artifact] you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty” is shockingly similar to what the evil mercenary guy said in Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire before he tried to steal the city’s power source for a museum…
“Academics, you never want to get your hands dirty. Think about it. If you gave back every stolen artifact from a museum, you'd be left with an empty building! We're just, providing a necessary service to the archeological community.” - Lyle Tiberius Rourke, 1914
"Why do we have three of Gerald Ford's ribs? Because we couldn't get four." Favorite line in the entire video.
"no one saw that man as significant" made me immediately cry. As a Hindu and Indian born in the US, this is a deeply painful subject, and John Oliver (as always) covered it so well. Thank you for advocating for cultures whose vocal cords have been ripped from them then called too stupid to speak up when it was happening.
The motto of these Museum’s is essentially “What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine too. If you shake my hand better count your fingers.”
"And check your rings, watch, and wallet. Maybe look in on your wife and kids, too."
This is worse than Communism LOL
Now THAT's a motto you can set your watch to
Did not expect a reference to friggin' Megadeth in the comments section of a Last Week Tonight video.
Shout out to my history teacher for showing the whole class this video! I have never laughed and also been so angry at the same time.
Fun fact about the Elgin Marbles: After the British Museum refused to return them on the grounds that Greece didn’t have a proper place to display them, they built the state of the art modern Acropolis Museum in Athens for the chief purpose of housing the Elgin Marbles. They still refuse to send them back. Also, when Lord Elgin was transporting the marbles to Britain, the ship they were on sank, and the marbles had to be salvaged from the ocean floor.
This is like a caricature. A thief pulling a sled of stolen goods that tips over and they hurriedly addresses the situation before their victims can catch them
It is truly very sad
Please call them the Parthenon Marbles not "the elgin marbles". They were never his. Thank you. A greek person.
Jesus Christ died for our sins, rose from the dead, and gives salvation to everyone who has faith in him. True faith in Jesus will have you bear good fruit and *drastically* change for the better! Those led by the Holy Spirit do not abide in wickedness. *God is ONE manifesting himself as THREE;* the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! Bless him! *For these three are one.* As I am led by the Holy Spirit, nothing I state is a lie, but the truth of God. Anyone who tells you differently is misinformed or a liar. They do not know God, nor led by him. Anyone who *claims* to be a Christian and is against what I am doing, and where I am doing it; the Holy Spirit does not dwell within them, they lack understanding. They know not God, read his word, and their religion is in vain. Do not hear them, they will mislead you, the lost cannot guide the lost.
When you trust in God and cast your cares (worries, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts) upon him, they will be NO MORE! Know that there is power in the name Jesus Christ! His name casts out demons and heals! The world is wicked, evil, and of the devil. I too, was a wicked sinner of the world before I opened my heart to God. I am living proof of God's work and fruitfulness! He is an active God who hears the prayers of his! God's children are set apart (holy) and righteous. The devil is a liar that comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy; that includes your relationship with God.
As the villain from Atlantis put it “if you returned every stolen artifact from a museum, you’d be left with an empty building”
Former archivist (turning farmer) here. Thank you for bringing all of this up, it's essential. Could you maybe do a kind of part 2 about the environmental impact of archiving and museums? We are preserving ourselves to death.
Why the hell would you give up being an archivist for being a farmer lol
@@briantwiss9078 you can't eat history
Make reproductions of each piece, return the originals, it's that damn simple. The point of a museum should be to share history and culture, the pieces being the originals is not a necessity for that. The only originals they should have are ones from their own nation that were donated to them, or other nations that were gifted/loaned to them.
This is true. The British Museum openly buys collections of artifacts from just about anyone. Regardless of how they were acquired. So long as they can be deemed authentic. My wife is from Beijing. Well educated family. Her uncle is an Archeologist with the Chinese museum organization (or something like that) I learned they had been fighting with he British museum for decades trying to get 10's of thousands of ancient Chinese artifacts returned to China. Most of these artifacts, like 95% are not even on display. Simply stored in some dusty old warehouse that isn't even properly storing or preserving the artifacts. They are literally turning to dust. Even offering insane amounts of money isn't enough. While they have gotten small amounts of artifacts back; the British museum still continues to refuse them. Such BS man.
You know, it really speaks to the quality of this show that you can just watch episodes of it again and again. Even if there already a good bit old.
One thing John didn't mention was how much more stolen art is hidden away in private collections. These people often have deeper pockets and less hesitation to acquiring art with a "dubious" ownership history.
Yep. That's how the Getty "museum" in California got its start. When I was studying Classics for my undergrad degree that place was discussed a lot because of all the artifacts and how they were acquired.
true, but the segment is called “museums”
I'm for it. Let me cry
Sure, but each single private weirdo will not have anything like the collection that a single major museum like the British Museum has. It's much more practical to focus on the museums (at least for now) because they will naturally be responsive to legislation, whereas rich criminals will not. A single law could be passed & the problem of imperial loot in museums could be solved. That's not to say that we shouldn't go after those people as vigorously as possible & return their ill gotten loot to their proper homes... it's just a different problem which will be more complicated to solve.
One of the best programmes you ever presented John, amongst a very selective lot. Thank you ! As an art lover, this is really food for thought and could almost turn ones perceptions of art galleries and museums on its head. The truth it seems is never pleasant but it is essential for us to remain human.
"How long is okay?"
One of the most coherent arguments this show has ever made. Be proud of this piece of work.
I have a book that was written in the 80's about whether the Elgin Marbles should be returned. (The author argued that they should.) So this argument has been going on for a long time. Just from these clips it's obvious that the missing pieces would look a lot more impressive as part of the original piece than as random isolated bits in a glass box.
I think the idea of repatriation is gaining more ground now among the general public, which is what’s more important. Especially since some museums have been repatriating some artefacts in the last 2 years.
Melina Mercouri had dedicated her life to returning all Greek originals.
PARTHENON. Stop naming them for the thief!!!!!
I love anthropology and learning about other cultures from museums, and I never really gave much thought to how fucked up the path those objects took to get there. Unbelievable proud as a half Scottish person that Aberdeen took steps to right their wrongs. Hopefully enough outrage can push other museums into the same position, sad as it is it has to come to that. Western colonizing and literal theft of artifacts is so wildly horrendous and makes me sick. I’m gonna start looking into stories of countries getting their art and history returned. 🙏❤️
This reminds me a lot of the Irish Giant Charles Byrne. He was 7' 7'' and he was so afraid of a collector or museum displaying his body when he died that he had his friends bury him at sea. Unfortunately, before his friends could follow through with their promise his corpse was stolen by a 'collector' and was eventually sold to the Royal College of Surgeons in London. It is still on display there over 200 years later despite efforts by activists for him to be buried. People with the same genetic condition as Byrne, who are from the same part of the country as him and probably share DNA have offered to donate their skeletons when they die so that Byrne can be released, but the museum has always refused.
That is seriously horrifying
That's absolutely awful & just so callous.
To know that they would be so obsessive about 'collecting' him, he must have heard a bunch of super creepy comments about displaying his body while still alive.
that's just horrible
This is fucked up
So many Nepalese deities are all over USA. The most important one is Taleju Bhagwan goddess, she graces Chicago museum right now. I am 30 years old and I have never seen the statue cause it was stolen decades ago and now the empty temple stands in heart Kathmandu waiting for the deity to return home. I spotted several of deities in Yale museum as well. It’s heartbreaking.
Please please do not stop making such true and valuable videos! The last bit - mmmmaaaasterpiece! As for someone coming from a colonialized country, this felt like 10 thousand fluffiest puppies climbing all over you!
It is absolutely a crime to plunder societies. I have been following you for decades now, and I feel like you are speaking my thoughts on every topic you address. I can also appreciate your sense of humor, or since you're British humour!
As a college student studying library sciences (for rare books) and museum studies… this video made me cry.
Great episode! I often wondered about the ownership of cultural art pieces in museums and was really happy to find this topic discussed here. I love this show so much! You are the best!
"The difference between archaeology and looting is 50 years." - one of my anthropology professors explaining the fucked up providence arguments of museums.
But what about dinosaurs
@@youtubeuserandchef471 that's paleontology.
It always gets me that the British Museum can't just make a copy to keep and then return the artifacts to where they belong.
I would laugh so much if the payback museum existed for real.🤣
I feel like crying because it isn't real.
@@jamestown8398 True but a**holes getting their own words/and actions thrown back into their faces is always funny.
Anyone who argues against returning colonial loot to their homelands really has to sit down and think about how they'd feel if the only pictures of their grandparents available for them would be in a completely different city, held by an unknown family, and you have to pay them and be deferential to them for even being allowed to visiting those pictures.
I watch a lifetime of collecting go in the dumpster after my neighbor passed away. These items must be returned and must be protected.
CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on this recently. New York has a police team devoted to this very subject. Some items have actually been seized out of people's home. Worth a watch. Thanks for the video!
“We can’t return your art and culture because otherwise we wouldn’t have our own” is the most depressingly hilarious line I’ve ever heard.
Anglosaxon imperialistic logic right here
That’s one of the most frustrating parts of this. In playing “World Heritage Curator” the British Museum and similar institutions are missing the opportunity to focus solely on their own heritage
No one made that claim, so you haven't heard it in the first place.
I was able to view some of the storage rooms in the field museum as a field trip (mostly just dinosaur bones) but I never thought they’d be storing artifacts like that. As a local, I’m disgusted with the field museum now.
I know right
I just lost my best fur friend last year and it was devastating as it always is. Being an adopter of older pets, ive been through this heartbreak many times. All we can do is give them the best lives possible and and pass on the love they give us. So sorry for your loss farron. So glad those two kittens landed in the right hands.
Been to both the Louvre and the British Museum I kept thinking how odd it was to be looking at Greek statutes but I'm not in Greece. Normally when traveling once we get to a museum it's filled with items of that country. It reminds me though of the US giving back our church bells, I'm sure there was a quid pro quo for that but it feels good to have them back in the PH.
As someone who deeply cares about Art, and about preserving cultural heritages, this story really hit home. It also reminded me of the the Salvatore Mundi story, the picture of Jesus holding a glass sphere and blessing everyone, that was sort of attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci (British Museum 'certified it'). It's believed that Mohamad Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, purchased it from Christie's for $450MM a few years ago. There was very little provenance to prove that Da Vinci actually painted. But Provenance? We don't need no actual provenance if public interest is high enough, and we can milk the public interest to fever pitch values by having Leonardo di Caprio do a promotional video for how amazing the picture is (it's not shown in the promo just people's reactions to looking at it). Art is a trophy, sometimes an ultimate trophy, for wealthy people to sink millions of dollars into it, and after it gets sold-- it's always valuable no matter whether or not you can prove that the art was legitimately acquired or even real vs. fake-- because of imputed value. Wealthy people and museums can borrow millions of dollars against their collections to finance other dealings. The art world is a very opaque world, one of the least regulated on the planet, and not hardly policed at all.
It’s like if when adults play the “I got your nose!” game with kids, instead of graciously giving it back after the kid starts to cry, they simply told the child that actually there’s no record of stealing in my acquisition of your nose and also until we can trust you to properly maintain your own nose, I will be the responsible custodian of it from now on :) 🤦🏻♀️
Greek person here: our conservation methods are actually very advanced. I attended a seminar a few years ago where a specialist actually went into detail about the methods they use to conserve and preserve the marbles. A lot of time and effort is put into researching the best ways to care for our artefacts, something that can’t be said for the British museum.
It doesn't matter. This argument has been used by enablers of every atrocity that has occurred.
Sadly, as the other person said, I imagine the Brits would just argue that these techniques are invalid or incorrect and you guys don’t actually know what you’re doing. :(
I went to Sutton Hoo, and the British Museum do not seem to have a problem properly curating thier own artifacts. Between Sutton Hoo and the British Museum there are combinations of real artifacts and exact copies of original artifacts with the right atmosphere and historical context, can be just as informative as traditional museums. I went to Kenwood House and there is an exact specially taken photograph of the portrait of Dido and her cousin painted in the 18th century. And at first glance it does not look like photo. The real painting is held in Scotland.
Plundered Skulls and Stolen sprits by Chip Colwell goes into some detail regarding Native American Artifacts and this very subject. Worth a read or a listen...I listened to the audio book for free form the local libary.
This was incredible sad to learn. I always loved to see the crafts and arts of cultures long forgotten, but never thought of it as stolen from the countries they were made in and at the same time also stealing their identity. Give it back and make it a virtual visit from now on! Having those incredible items locked in boxes for no one to see is an awful crime.
While you have it, make copies of it. Transfer the ownership to the rightful owners and then ask them, if they want the thing back. If yes, you have the copy, if not, you give the copy to them so they can build their own musem and once it is somewhat safe and stable, there is still the option to swap the things so the owner gets the real thing and you as a museum are still a place for education using all the copies you have created
I worked at the British museum for 6 months and I have a lot of stories to tell.. lots of very creepy weird stories
Play Google I'll tell when Oliver wants me to
Fun fact the word loot is a Hindi / Sanskrit (Indian language) word. So the British looted so much that they even took the word loot which the people cried when they were looting.
Wow I didn’t know this! So messed up!
Thanks for sharing!
Queen Victoria named a dog (the first Pekingese in England) stolen from a Chinese palace "Looty"
Mr. Oliver, I hope you look at tribal recognition in California with relation to how muddled Mission systems made things. some groups were given a green light vs others who were harried. A good talk illuminating colonial history in a highly visible realm.
Good idea. I'd send John a letter. His staff actually look at those, but I doubt they look at youtube comments.
i would like this as a white dude living in california living on a damn road named after a ohlone group. it feels so damn disrespectful to live somewhere literally named after em and have no idea about their culture or anything even if i had zero hand in my birth in this particular location. much less the way that i was taught about the missions in school in the 21st century.
I very much appreciate this episode. And thank you for the tour of the Payback Museum. I probably will never get there on my own.
Awesome show, and super relevant. It puts me in mind of several instances I've run into as a cultural anthropologist over a 50 year period. The most poignant incident involved appalling destruction rather than theft. During the early days of President Bush's war against Iraq, museums were demolished in the march towards what he expected to be a quick victory. The pity is that Iraq, considered the global crossroads of religion through many thousands of years, became the scene of devastating evil, with museums senselessly razed to the ground. It was a loss to all of humanity. Both personally and professionally, I've held in my hands ancient Chinese jade artifacts initially stolen from graves and sold at auctions around the world. The biggest issue with jade is the difficulty proving that it's genuine without nearly destroying the item. Not only are fake documents of provenance available for genuine but stolen articles, but as a result, it's also possible for an owner to claim that a piece in their possession is a reproduction and therefore not acquired illegally. In addition to carved jade artifacts are cases wherein Native American artifacts have been illegally dug up in southwestern US and kept or sold - a crime that continues to this day. In some instances I've been able to convince buyers to return items to their rightful cultural owners and take a huge tax deduction for it, but collectors of artifacts known to be stolen are often insanely possessive and dangerous, whereas museums are just selfish and a bit mean.
Brilliant show as usual John . As a Brit I have to hold my hand up and say the British empire was an abomination.
This subject is a good one to illustrate the fickleness of change in our public mores. We are caught in our conflict between what we used to "know" and what we now know. Change is hard!
“Thou shall not steal “ has been around for a while now.
I thought the English liked the Ten Commandments.
I’m half Egyptian and I’m born and raised in Egypt. When I was little, I was SO fascinated by ancient Egyptian culture. When I was about 6 years old, my mom’s friend took me to the Egyptian museum. To my horror, almost all the artefacts weren’t available to see. There were just glass cases with photos of what would have been there, but were at other museums in Western Europe, the UK, or NY. The new Egyptian museum is opening up soon and supposedly it’ll have the largest archeological collection in the world. Here’s hoping that it’s not just going to be a huge disappointment like I had as a kid.
In Babylon they had to build a replica of the Ishtar gate because some German guy fucking stole the whole real entry way and 118 out of 120 lions on the processional way. They had the audacity to say “Iraqis couldn’t take care of their artifacts” because the remnants of the gate got damaged by US bombardment during the war. They had the audacity to say that the gate was “bought and paid for” because smuggling something down the river in pieces during the night is the kind of thing you do when you buy something 😂
@@aperson8916 honestly the only reason the Pyramids of Giza are still in Egypt is because they would have been too heavy to move. Those assholes even took our three largest Obelisks from Luxor… it’s absolute insanity.
@@aperson8916 In Iraq's case they were right. Remember what happened at the Iraqi National Museum when dozens of ancient statues were destroyed by muslim fondamentalists? Turns out they were not safe
@@dekenlst Are you being serious? Do you also think Ukraine don't deserve to take care of their own artifacts because they are being demolished by Russia? You can't judge the museum based on what other people choose to do to it! That's called victim blaming.
This was so well done. I used to love museums until someone "reminded" me that the items are stolen. It's hard to go in now.
well, there are an insane amount of museums; for as many museums with a shady history, there are museums built by people who want to share something they love with others. a lot of the collections managers in the british museum actually at this point advocate for them to be returned, but are having issues getting support from the Ancient board members😭 museums are a way to tell the stories of our histories. thats why there’s motivation for places like the british museum to control the historical narrative, but the stories are vital and must be maintained nonetheless
Thank you for addressing the arguments typically used for keeping such artifacts in their current museums. Personally, I think that those kinds of arguments can have weight - but 9 times out of 10 they are used more as a poor excuse than due to legitimate concerns. Artifacts and ancient art are things which should be considered valuable due to their cultural impacts primarily. So the cultural importance of them being returned to their "place of origin" I think should make returning such things the default stance. There is of course a grey area here for many museums and many items, but when I see such lazy responses by those in support of current practices - saying "it was the law" or the like without considering the deeper nuances - it really is disappointing.
wow, this is such a good video. genuinely want to learn so much more about art history now
Someone really should make a museum of the stories of stolen items by museums.
One of the most fun museums I've ever visited was filled with REPLICAS of famous sculptures, and the fact that they weren't originals truly didn't lessen the impact of the craftsmanship and artistic vision of the artist. I don't know why we can't do that with all the objects we've stolen from other countries. I'm sure that most people wouldn't be able to spot the difference even if they knew.
Or how about establishing a relationship with the country of origin to loan out artifacts to museums around the world where they can be appreciated by many more, and their owners are rightfully compensated for sharing their history?
Look up dinosaur skeletons and find out how much what you see has been replicated, also go to the shipwreck museum in key west and see how they replicate artifacts for show.
@@sircrapalot9954 Oliver addresses that near the end as a viable (and even likely) option many of these countries can take. The issue is most of these museums don’t simply want to display the treasures - they accumulate wealth by “owning” it and a loaning system prevents that.
There is a certain awe in seeing original pieces, but it should be the decision of the nation of origin. So much stuff was taken from 3rd world countries. I bet the extra revenue from loaning their historic artifacts would bring them closer to a modern world. And I'd be willing to spend extra to see an original piece, especially if I'm used to seeing the replica.
@@ascent8487 to apreciate the craftsmanship? replicas are better for disserning details since they are .. well not hundreds or thousands of years old. A replica is basically what the exhibited sculpture looked like when it was made. You can allow people to touch replicas or at least get mutch closer as they are not as valuable.
The issue seems to be that those opposed to returning the stolen items of the British Museum low-key recognize that not only will that leave the museum all but empty, but will reveal that there is no British history if you don't display the spoils of their centuries of imperialism and theft.
Friends grandma worked at the British museum and in the 60s they chucked out pieces into a dump. She even grew up with her grandmother legally taking the pieces home.
I have never been so intensely appalled by the looting of historical items from other cultures. Thank you John Oliver and team for this amazingly comprehensive video about some of the wrongs that colonialism has done to the world. I appreciate the care that you all give to inform the masses about wrong doings and the obvious reparations that need to happen.
A whole movie was made on this subject, (I bet not just one), "The Woman in Gold". points it out exactly how bad museums got many of their items.
I finally got to see one of the golden statues taken from one of my grandmothers tribes. It is in the Louvre hidden away with the non-white art. The rest of the museum has signs in French and English detailing what the piece is, who crated it and where it came from. However when you see this statue it is only in French and only says “gold statue”.
I used to work for the natural science museum in Houston and they did go through their exhibits and their archives and return Native American artifacts to the various nations they belonged to. Then they worked with native artists and commissioned replicas for display. I don't know why other museums can't do something similar.
It is sad that other museums don’t do that
Repatriation and inclusion of communities are rising themes in museums and it really seems that museums are starting to do similar things much more often.
Replicas are the most obvious answer
@@seffishestopal5950 You people act like King Tut is still walking around to return his belongings to. Sending items back to their country of origin, or even thinking about just sending that country money as "reparations" isn't the answer here. You're rewarding people who didn't have anything to do with the artifacts to begin with.
@@tepidceranda3394 To people who didn't have anything to do with them? It's THEIR cultural heritage ffs. This is not about returning articats to individuals but to return them to their cultural homes so the indigenous people can enjoy their heritage. Jeez..
Kumail Nanjiani is such an underrated treasure
Brilliant reseach and execution of facts. Keep up the good work.
Brilliant episode. Loved the Payback Museum!
I love the payback museum and there definitely should be one as I am a firm believer in it.
This doesn't surprise. The British Museum has so many artifacts from Ethiopia as well, they are still refusing to return the Axum, and many other artifacts. I think the one that pisses us off the most are the religious artifacts, which include over 300 manuscripts. And sadly they are not the only ones, there are universities that are guilty of holding these items hostage as well. In some instances it is also the Ethiopian government who handed these items over, like the TPLF party under Meles Zenawi. All around sad.
Why don’t they say, “We are going to return the everything to their rightful country of origin and maintain a collection of carefully crafted replicas to replace them, each paying homage to the original and the story of its return as part of the museum.”That would still allow the collection to inspire, and put them back in their rightful place. You could even document the replication as an art form of paying respect.
I’m going to answer my question by saying…. Money…. That’s why. All of those items hold huge value to the countries who own them… and they won’t let them go.
Not at all a bad idea. I want to add that in some cultures certain objects deemed sacred are not supposed to be displayed, photographed or replicated. But yes repatriation, the return of those objects, should always be the practice.
Who wants to see replicas though?
@@jerusareem actually, a lot of private collectors put replicas on display so the genuine object can be stored more safely.
@@Justin_Leahy I get that but we aren’t talking dinosaur bones here. No one is going to make a replica of a 1000 year old book. Look what happened in Syria during the uprising. So many sculptures and artifacts were destroyed by isis from the old ages that we will never get to see again. Some countries can’t take care of these things. I’m against these museums but I understand the need sometimes.
John Oliver is a treasure in and of himself. I really appreciate this video.
the natural history museum in chicago has a ton of stolen goods. it's jam packed full. it was my favorite place to go as a kid but when i got older it hit me what i was seeing and it was just jaw dropping and sad. i haven't gone back.
OLIVER thank you for your truth telling. Even you can tell the difference in accent BS. I agree these precious items should be returned to their rightful owners. They are priceless mementos to each culture.
I study anthropology and I’m Native Canadian… it’s an inner struggle sometimes but when it comes to human remains I think we are at a place now in time and technology where we can get all the information to help us understand the daily life of the past and then give the remains the respect that they deserve, wether it be a proper reburial in place that would make cultural sense, giving the remains back to the people they come from if they are still around, or other things that I can’t think of right now. I think that if ever there is a case where the remains are claimed by a people/culture there should be an open discussion about the process. We can make amazing replicas these days and show those without risking destroying the historical or cultural importance of the original. Donations to museums are different as well, in a native Canadian context my tribe had a large part in donating familial items and making cultural pieces for a permanent exhibit in a very large and popular museum in the City I live in. We felt that we were given the right to work along side in making the exhibit and made sure our stories were heard. That’s the proper way to do things in my opinion.
I love this program, but my favourite by far is this one. Excellently researched and presentation incredible.
John Oliver is a treasure.
"If you say yes to one, you would suddenly find the British Museum is empty." That's kinda the point.
That’s also why these museum will never return things, at least not on a scale that matters. These museums would go out of business if they returned all those artifacts, so they’ll never return them willingly.
When enough time passes I think stolen goods become part of the cultural heritage of the country that stole that stuff.
@@bencilsharpie7567 Let me know when you go on vacation for like a week. I'd like to test your theory when it's YOUR shit that's stolen.
The clip at the end is so good. It really reminds me of the weird, surreal opening to those old DW documentaries. Unlike any museum I've ever been to, yet somehow, 100% Museum.
Clearly that man never understood Solomon’s story there. Solomon wasn’t saying whoever loves the baby more gets the baby, he was figuring out the true owner of it and giving it back!
The French museum to that guy: “you’re trying to acquire what I have rightfully stolen”.
Bravo, John, for shedding light on this issue! I’ve been to people’s homes who had priceless Egyptian, Hindu, Khmer, and Mayan masterpieces hanging prominently in private rooms. 😢
Just at the start of the Museum one little correction: If you (a country) are missing an old piece of art and think it may be stolen, it's most likely in the Louvre. If not there, check the British Museum ;)
My mum who is a chronic fox news watcher was still unsure after this and it only took a "imagine if the lady of lourdes statue of Mary was sawn off at the feet to be put on display in Kenya, how livid you and all of fox news would be" to get her to understand how not ok all of this is.
Karen sounds like a real treat to be around
@@theultimaterental We don't choose the quality of our own family unfortunately, but we can decide the quality of their retirement home.
@@galaktoast LOL! I love this.
The concept of having stuff in your museum which is "not from your backyard" is really foreign for me, cause i never seen anything in our Roman Museum in Augsburg that we didn't dig up in and around Augsburg 🤔
The Gerald Ford segment not ending in a joke - POWERFUL I will admit to expecting a live James Spader tied, gagged, and on display (the Remington costume of course)
I love that Kumail Nanjiani and Nick Offerman do educational PSAs in this show lol
With all the advances in digital scanning and 3D printing (we can even 3D print replicas of paintings now), along with all the traditional arts of making moulds from objects and casting copies, there should be zero reason why these artifacts cannot be returned while still allowing museums to show people what the artifacts look like, what materials they were made in, and their historic significance. The only reason, at this point, for holding on to so many of these comes down to nothing more than bragging rights. I can only regret and lament that it has taken me, personally, much too long to come around to this very simple truth.