Professor Gerstenblith comments on Boston MFA decison to return artifacts to Nigeria

DePaul Distinguished Research Professor Patty Gerstenblith, director of the Center for Art, Museum, & Cultural Heritage Law, was quoted in a Boston Globe article discussing the recent return of eight artifacts to Nigeria by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The artifacts include a 2,000-year-old terra-cotta head and were given to the MFA in a 2013 bequest by collectors William and Bertha Teel, longtime supporters of the museum. The decision to return the eight artifacts was the culmination of 18 months of research, driven by Victoria Reed, who was appointed the first full-time museum curator of provenance in the United States by the MFA in 2010.

Gerstenblith praised the MFA's actions as "out-front," and more involved than measures taken by peer museums. The MFA now voluntarily and rigorously researches object histories and, if one is determined to be questionable, will find a way to make amends.

Gerstenblith also was quoted in an AP News article regarding the recent discovery of thousands of artifacts in the home of a 91-year-old man in rural central Indiana. The FBI's Art Crime Team is investigating, but whether any laws had knowingly been broken remains to be seen. As Professor Gerstenblith noted, "[s]tate, federal and international laws are involved," and "[m]uch depends on whether objects are considered stolen or were imported with a license."

In addition, Gerstenblith discussed the difficulties faced by nations making claims for the return of cultural artifacts in a recent ABA Journal article. The piece also cites an article originally published in the DePaul Journal of Art, Technology & Intellectual Property Law.