The University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) hold world-class collections, representative of the natural world and of art, history, culture and knowledge globally. UCM institutions are dedicated to making collections, and the information held about the collections, as widely accessible as possible, and support research and debate on the collections and the challenges they raise. The museums are committed to an open and responsive approach to questions around the future care, circulation and destinations of objects.
This approach sits within the wider context of the UCM Equality & Diversity Policy, which sets out the UCM’s commitment to equity and inclusivity across the broad range of museum and collection activity.
As Accredited museums, the way in which UCM institutions care for their collections is directed by nationally agreed standards and guided by a Collections Development Policy. This states that when considering whether to return objects to countries of origin, the museums will make decisions “on a case by case basis; within its legal position and taking into account all ethical implications and available guidance.”
Each UCM institution has a governing body which approves the loan of objects for analysis and exhibition, short- and long-term; and may approve the de-accessioning of objects in the legal possession of the University of Cambridge, cared for by the museums, to enable them to be returned to communities or nations of origin.
UCM collections range widely by period and region and include natural history objects, works of art, archaeological and ethnographic artefacts, photographs, archival documents, books and scientific instruments. As they are so diverse claims made for the return of material are considered on a case-by-case basis.
Some museum objects were acquired in a manner that was not considered legitimate or appropriate at the time, or would not be considered legitimate or appropriate today. The UCM is supportive of research into the histories of the collections, and will engage with claimants and potential claimants in an open and respectful way.
Potential claimants should note that a small number of objects in UCM collections are ‘on deposit’; in these cases, the University is not generally the legal owner; it may be necessary to submit a claim to another organisation or to an individual.
Prospective claimants are encouraged to liaise informally with the Director and curatorial staff of the UCM institution in advance of any formal claim. Visit the individual UCM institution pages via this website's home page for contact details. The museums welcome research visits from community members and prospective claimants which may clarify areas of common ground and help shape the most feasible and appropriate approaches to the future of particular objects and collections.