Museums and restorative justice: heritage, repatriation and cultural education


  • Moira Simpson

    1. Moira G. Simpson is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences at the University of South Australia. She has written extensively on the subjects of museums, indigenous cultural politics and repatriation. Her publications include Making Representations: Museums in the Post-Colonial Era and Museums and Repatriation. Her current research interests relate to the care and protection of sacred and ceremonial objects, museum repatriation as a mechanism for cultural revitalization, and the development of indigenous museums models.
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After decades of suppression and social injustice many colonized indigenous peoples are seeking to revive traditional values and cultural practices as part of a process of renewal intended to strengthen cultural identity, heal personal and community ills and provide a stimulus for new creativity. In this article the author considers the contemporary value of sacred and ceremonial artefacts as resources for cultural renewal by indigenous peoples who have lost most of their heritage materials during the colonial era and are seeking to recover from the effects of post-colonial trauma. This process often involves the restoration of key items of cultural and spiritual heritage to living indigenous cultures, and it is these types of objects that are most frequently the subject of repatriation requests. This article explores the links between heritage and health and well-being that become evident as indigenous peoples seek to restore cultural values and identity and renew the spiritual dimension of their cultures – as a means of dealing with life in the twenty-first century – and considers the implications for the future roles of museums.