The Roman Society

Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies

Archaeology Committee Grants: Public Engagement and Development Reports

2019 

Issabella Orlando - The Return Address

https://www.museandwander.co.uk/film

A short documentary shot on location in London and Paris, The Return Address explores the question of why heritage objects matter to each and every one of us, and where they belong: in museums in world cities, or in the places they originally came from. With a neutral, holistic approach, it presents both sides of this long-ongoing debate, both the benefits and problems with repatriating artefacts. An interdisciplinary panel of heritage experts walk viewers through both practical factors ­– threats to objects’ safety, where heritage is best cared for, in what display context it will make the most sense to visitors – and artefacts’ psychological and sentimental value. The film outlines the impact of heritage on everyone, from museum-goers in megacities to communities and displaced refugees all over the world who share in the cultural background of these objects.  The Return Address overall illuminates the true value of heritage – its ability to resonate with each and every one of us, and its poignant connection to cultural identity.

This project aimed to address a lack of accessibility within the debate over artefact repatriation, examples of which often feature in the media. The discussion can often seem without context, or reserved for specific voices: academics, professionals, and members of the communities which the objects in question arguably belong to, whom are considered qualified or justified for having an opinion, and rightfully so. But as a result, this conversation can seem daunting for museum-goers and the general public, who may be getting to grips with this topic for the first time. 

So this project is very much a starting place. It aims to encourage more and more people to think about the controversies at stake when they visit museums, hopefully inspiring greater curiosity about heritage objects, more critical thinking about the institution of the museum, and wider visibility for the long-silenced voices who raise claims against them. But the conversation doesn’t stop here, neither does your learning, and you are qualified to take part. This discussion is for you, too. 

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The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies (The Roman Society) is a registered charity in the UK.

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