LONDON, U.K., January 27, 2019 (Times of India): Three British museums have embarked on an exercise to confront the colonial legacy of their artefacts by being more transparent about the items' provenance. British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and Pitt Rivers Museum are reviewing the labels on thousands of their objects, particularly those plundered during colonial times. "We are looking into and researching collection histories. This is an ongoing process, so I am unable to give the number of Indian objects that might be relabelled," a British Museum spokeswoman said, adding that objects in historic collections have been acquired "in many circumstances as a result of punitive expeditions, forced acquisitions and colonial collecting but also as diplomatic gifts, donations and objects that have been given or sold with conscious intent".
"V&A is not embarking on a relabelling project in isolation, but exploring a variety of programs through which we hope to re-contextualize the histories of some objects in our collection," its spokeswoman said. Pitt Rivers Museum, which has an Indian collection comprising 25,000 items, keeps historic labels on display, in addition to contemporary ones. "Some of the historic labels are problematic," said its director Dr Laura Van Broekhoven. "Some have very derogatory words on them which are racist or sexist. In the case of others, we feel we are not being upfront about the problematic history. Some objects came to the museum as the result of plunder and looting. The project is to find ways forward. In some cases, we might take the label off, in others we might keep it on. It is all part of a process of decolonizing museums," she said.
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