Seven museum objects are currently being returned to New Delhi as part of an agreement which sees Glasgow Life Museums become the first UK museums service to repatriate items to India.
The plans, first revealed in August 2022, include the return of a ceremonial Indo-Persian tulwar (sword), believed to date back to the 14th century.
The items were packed into crates at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre yesterday, Tuesday 10 January, before being transferred to the Archaeological Survey of India, where the artefacts will go on display.
In August 2022 Glasgow Life welcomed dignitaries from the High Commission of India in London for a transfer of ownership ceremony to return the seven items, one of which is an 11th century carved stone door jamb taken from a Hindu temple in Kanpur.
The delegates visited Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to sign an agreement confirming the repatriation of the objects, six of which were stolen from temples and shrines across India during the 19th century. The seventh was bought after a theft from the owner. All were gifted to Glasgow’s civic museum collections.
The transfer of ownership took place after Glasgow City Council approved a recommendation made in April 2022 by the cross-party Working Group for Repatriation and Spoliation to return 51 items to India, Nigeria and the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux tribes in South Dakota, US.
Glasgow Life Museums has been working on these repatriations alongside the High Commission of India since January 2021.
Bailie Annette Christie, Chair of Glasgow Life and Convenor for Culture, Sport and International Relations for Glasgow City Council, said: “The physical return of these Indian items marks a milestone for Glasgow. Glasgow has led international repatriation efforts since 1998, when an agreement was reached to return the Lakota Sacred Ghost Dance shirt to the Wounded Knee Survivors’ Association.
“We must thank the High Commission of India, the British High Commission and the Archaeological Survey of India for their help and cooperation in ensuring the safe return of these objects from Glasgow’s museum collections.”
Glasgow Life Museums is also repatriating 19 Benin bronzes to Nigeria. This work has been ongoing since it was established the artefacts – acquired from auctions and as gifts – were taken from sacred sites and ceremonial buildings during the British Punitive Expedition of 1897.
Glasgow Life Museums welcomed a delegation from Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments to Kelvingrove Museum in June 2022 to discuss the transfer of ownership and future dates.
Twenty-five Lakota and Oceti Sakowin ancestor and cultural items – sold and donated to Glasgow’s museums by George Crager, an interpreter for the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show who visited the city in 1892 – will also be handed back to the Cheyenne River Sioux and Oglala Sioux tribes of South Dakota. Some of these were taken from the Wounded Knee Massacre site following the battle of December 1890, while others were named ancestors’ personal belongings or are ceremonial artefacts.