Museums, Restitution and Colonial-era Artefacts: Law, Ethics and France’s Sarr Savoy Report, Talk by Alexander Herman, V&A Museum London, 4pm, 3 July 2019

Events and Conferences

This unique presentation will consider some of the broader legal and ethical issues involved in the recent trends towards the repatriation of colonial-era artefacts. The starting point is the release of the Sarr Savoy Report in France, Restitution of African Heritage: Toward a New Relational Ethics (November 2018) and its proposals for a wide-scale return of African artefacts from French public museums to African nation states. This will be situated in the wider debates on restitution that have been taking place around the world over the past three decades. But what ethical and legal foundations must exist before such returns can take place? Changes in ethics usually predate changes in law. An ethical sea change is one thing; arguably one is now under way. But will changes to the legal rules, often the essential ingredient to secure the return of cultural objects, be quick to follow? That is the question of the hour.

Alexander Herman is the Assistant Director of the Institute of Art & Law ( Prior to joining the Institute, he worked as a lawyer in Canada and for the esteemed barrister, Norman Palmer QC CBE. As such, he has worked on restitution issues from both sides of the divide, whether in regards to museum pieces like the Elgin Marbles, Aboriginal human remains or artworks stolen during the Second World War. At the Institute of Art & Law, he runs the educational programmes, which include distance learning and classroom Diploma courses. He helped establish an LLM programme at Queen Mary University of London in Art, Business and Law, on which he now teaches. He has been quoted widely in the press in the UK, US and Canada, and his writing has appeared in The Art NewspaperThe Globe and Mail and The Guardian. He is also a frequent commentator on these issues for the Institute’s journal, Art Antiquity and Law.

Venue details:

Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 16:00 – 17:00.
Victoria & Albert Museum, Sackler Centre, Seminar Room 1
Cromwell Road
London SW7 2SL

External guests joining instructions:

Seminar Room 1 is located in the V&A's Sackler Centre.
(The Sackler Centre is indicated with an ‘X’)

To register for a ticket:


Gilbert Provenance and Spoliation Research Seminar at the V&A:

This talk is part of the Gilbert Provenance and Spoliation Research Seminar which aims to provide a regular forum for researchers from numerous disciplinary backgrounds working on provenance and spoliation issues at different museums, universities, libraries, auction houses and both governmental and non-governmental organisations across the UK. The seminar provides a space for the presentation of cutting-edge research and discussion of methods, resources, current trends and the increasing challenges of this dynamic and changing field.


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