Digitization ≠ Repatriation: When Digital Humanities Provides Access But Not Restitution


History From Below

This week over at Hyperallergic, I wrote about new exhibits at the British Library and the Victoria & Albert Museum which both engage with the cultural heritage of ancient and medieval Ethiopia. An examination of the Ethiopian cultural heritage held in the libraries and museums of Britain can perhaps demonstrate a seminal point about digitization and the digital humanities more broadly: Digital editions can never fully replace an analog object. No matter how many manuscripts we digitize and make available online or 3D scans we create of the Parthenon frieze, they are not a replacement for repatriation.

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 6.21.14 AM “Marble relief (Block XLVII) from the North frieze of the Parthenon. The frieze shows the procession of the Panathenaic festival, the commemoration of the birthday of the goddess Athena” (Caption and Screenshot via Sketchfab and authored by Daniel Pett).

One reason for both of the UK exhibits this year is the…

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