Statue de Bourdelle au Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Alger, DR.

For the 15 years now, demands of return, repatriation and restitution of artefacts stolen during the colonial period have been an endless diplomatic issue between former colonised and colonisers in Africa. How objects of cultural heritage became subjects of conflict?

Not all Africans countries claim for their ‘looted’ heritage, North African countries (Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco) barely asked for cultural artefacts to be repatriated. This article explains that difference through the analysis of 50 years of cultural policies in a post-colonial context. It raises questions that help reformulating the dead-end of the question of restitutions. How that difference enlights the relationship between the part (the object in exile) and the all (the heritage in situ)?
This complete article (in French) is now  on line on

Jean-Gabriel Leturcq, « La question des restitutions d’œuvres d’art : différentiels maghrébins », L’Année du Maghreb [En ligne], IV | 2008,

Enjoy your reading*.

*I’m aware it is a very academic article. Research aims at fuelling cultural policies with new matters, doesn’t it!?

News and updates

April 5, 2011

Until #Feb17 events in Libya, I was in charge of a team whose responsibility was the creation of a centre for digital conservation of Libyan historical archives in Tripoli. Of course, our activities stopped and I’m back in France.
I’ve found a shelter near Lille and settled in front of the computer.

What’s on the shelf now?

I’m looking for a job in Heritage management and/or research. I’m applying widely to positions in Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

Interview dcliquer sur le logoiffusée sur France Info (et France Inter) le 7/04/2010 autour de la conférence tenue au Caire sur les restitutions d’œuvres de patrimoine (clic clic)
Rappel autour de l’événement : ici pour l’effet d’annonce (le Bandung du patrimoine) et pour les résultats de la conférence.

Plus sur ce blog bientôt ou relisez les articles écrits sur ce sujet:
– un portrait de Zahi Hawass
– une mise en perspective des  questions de propriété
– Une ébauche d’étude des mécanismes institutionnels de restitution
Whose Pharaohs?

On the 7th of October 2009, the French Culture minister  announced the Musée du Louvre would return to the Egyptian authorities five  fresco fragments   supposedly stolen from a tomb in the Kings’ Valley (Louxor). Why did it break the news?

Egyptian officials and the returned hair of Ramses IIThe issue is not really new. Since the early 2000’s, the problem of cultural property have gained visibility and  became a  source of diplomatic and political conflict. Two opposite positions are confronting. On one hand, institutions in archaeological-source countries claim for the right to be returned, rapatriated or restituted “their” “looted” artifacts as part of the national heritage. On the other hand, 18 museums from antiquities-importing countries have signed the Declaration of the importance and Value of Universal Museums (2002) stating the artifacts in their collections do not belong to a  nation in particular but to the entire Humanity. As both arguments can be considered as valid, it results  in a deadlock situation such as in the case of the Parthenon/Elgin Marble whose property is claimed at the same time by Greek authorities and the British Museum.

The new thing about this recent return is that the Louvre is one of the museums that signed the 2002 Declaration. For the first time, one of those museums agrees in such a short time (less than two weeks) to return the claimed pieces… without negociating any condition. How was it possible?

Read the rest of this entry »

Les guerres du patrimoine

February 23, 2009

crédit: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

crédit: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

Le patrimoine est-il une des cibles des guerres du XXIe siècle?

Le 23 février 2009, le Musée iraqien de Bagdad a été réinauguré après près de six ans de fermeture. On se souvient du pillage du musée en avril 2003 au moment de l’entrée des troupes américaines dans Bagdad. Le symbole était fort dans le contexte d’une action armée -invasion-  critiquée par la communauté internationale. Les Iraqiens dénonçaient la destruction de leur patrimoine national. La réaction internationale condamnait alors avec la perte irrémédiable de collections d’objets assyriens, babyloniens, etc. la destruction d’un patrimoine de l’humanité.  Le texte qui suit est tiré d’une intervention donnée au Cedej, Le Caire en octobre 2006 dans le cadre d’une projection sur le film de Mika Assaf, La mémoire volée, retour au musée de Bagdad (2006).

Read the rest of this entry »