Call for Papers: Should it stay or should it go? Repatriation and decolonisation in conservation

Student Conference at West Dean College (25-27 June 2023)

13 Mar 2023


In 2022, institutions across Europe and America began the process of returning the Benin Bronzes- objects that British colonial forces had taken from the Kingdom of Benin in the late 19th century.

This act of theft was part of a wider, centuries-long movement of Western collectors taking an interest in ‘ethnographic’ items and displaying them outside of their historical and cultural contexts.

In recent years, it has become increasingly necessary to recognise our collections' contextual histories and discuss returning these objects to their place of origin. But where the condition of the object is concerned, what’s the best call? As conservators, we may not make the big decisions in large institutions but we still have a voice and can make a difference in how objects are treated. 


The aim of the conference is to contribute to the discussion over our impact and limitations as conservators and understand where our place is in our institutions' efforts to decolonise their collections. We welcome all perspectives across the heritage industry. 


Abstracts are invited for 20-minute presentations on all aspects relevant to these issues.  

Abstracts should be in English and 300-500 words in length. Please include the Authors’ name, current employment and contact email address. Participation from emerging and established professionals in allied fields is encouraged. This conference will be held at West Dean College in Chichester and online via Zoom.


Abstracts should be submitted by email to [email protected] no later than 17th April 2023.

A selection committee will review abstracts and notify speakers by 1st May 2023.