Glasgow Life Museums have signed an agreement with India which will see it become the first UK museum services to repatriate artefacts to India.
A transfer of ownership ceremony to return seven Indian antiquities was held on August 19, 2022, which was attended by Glasgow Life, the charity which manages the city’s museum collections and dignitaries from the High Commission of India.
Following the meeting at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Government of India and Archaeological Survey of India delegates were given the opportunity to view the objects at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, where they are safely stored. The delegation included: Sujit Ghosh, Acting High Commissioner, High Commission of India, London; Jaspreet Sukhija, First Secretary, High Commission of India, London; and BijaySelvaraj, Consul General of the Consulate General of India, Edinburgh.
The transfer of ownership ceremony took place after Glasgow City Council’s City Administration Committee approved a recommendation made in April 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.
High Commission of India in London and Glasgow Life Museums have been working on the repatriation of the Indian artefacts since January 2021. The antiquities include a ceremonial Indo-Persian talwar (sword) which is believed to date back to the 14th century and an 11th century carved stone door jamb taken from a Hindu temple in Kanpur.
Six of the objects were removed from temples and shrines in different states in Northern India during the 19th century, while the seventh was purchased following a theft from the owner. All seven artefacts were gifted to Glasgow’s collections.
Duncan Dornan, Head of Museums and Collections, Glasgow Life, said, “Glasgow has led repatriation efforts in the UK since 1998, when the city agreed to return the Lakota Sacred Ghost Dance shirt to the Wounded Knee Survivors’ Association. The transfer of ownership of the Indian antiquities symbolises a significant step for Glasgow, with the city continuing its positive repatriation history by ensuring these cultural artefacts are placed back in the hands of their legitimate owners.
“Credit must be given to the High Commission of India and British High Commission for their cooperation and support. We look forward to continuing our work with the Indian authorities to deliver the safe return of these artefacts.”
Bailie Annette Christie, Chair of Glasgow Life and Convenor for Culture, Sport and International Relations for Glasgow City Council, said, “The repatriation of these objects is of great historical and cultural importance to both Glasgow and India, so it’s a privilege to welcome Indian dignitaries to our city for such a momentous occasion.
“The agreement reached with the Government of India is another example of Glasgow’s commitment to addressing past wrongs and remaining transparent when explaining how objects arrived in the city’s museum collections.”
Sujit Ghosh, Acting High Commissioner, High Commission of India, said, “We are delighted that our partnership with Glasgow Life has resulted in a decision to restitute Indian artefacts from Glasgow museums to India. These artefacts are an integral part of our civilisational heritage and will now be sent back home. We express our appreciation to all the stakeholders who made this possible, especially Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council.”