Restitution and beyond in contemporary museum work: Re-imagining a paradigm of knowledge production and partnership

  • Thomas Laely University of Zurich, Switzerland
Keywords: Restitution, cultural heritage, ownership and property rights, African museums, practices of collaboration, museum partnerships, knowledge production


Today, anthropological museums have to reach out to external stakeholders to
reprocess and reappraise the history and acquisition of their collections. They are
much more than mere interpreters of a past heritage, but institutions having a place
in contemporary history to debate and shape ever-evolving cultures grounded in
both local and global concerns. The paper explores these questions using the
example of an ongoing trilateral museum partnership in knowledge generation
between Uganda and Switzerland.

Author Biography

Thomas Laely, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Thomas Laely ( is a cultural anthropologist at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, with a focus on museology, political anthropology and African studies. From 2010 to 2019, he was the Deputy Director of the Ethnographic Museum at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. In previous years between 1994 and 2010, he was active in international arts promotion, establishing and directing the International Department of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia. Currently, Laely is concentrating on issues of the history and perspectives of ethnological museums, particularly the exploration of new practices of collaboration between cultural history museums in Africa and Europe.


Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 2343-6530