Contested Collections: Grappling With History and Forging Pathways for Repatriation

Virtual Event
Thursday, May 19, 2022 - 12:30pm to 2:00pm

Visit the Contested Collections virtual symposium site for additional program details, resources and to view our upcoming digital exhibit.


Join us for Contested Collections: Grappling with History and Forging Pathways for Repatriation, an online symposium hosted by UCLA Library and co-sponsored by the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies. This four-part series featuring international experts explores the complicated histories of cultural heritage collections, the expropriation of artifacts through colonialism and looting, the politics and ethics of ownership and restitution, and decolonization in libraries, archives, and museums. 

The symposium will consist of four sessions spread out over three days. The first two panels will focus on the historical roots of the problem and the current calls for rectification. The latter two will focus on existing and potential pathways for repatriation. 

Panel 1: Tuesday, May 17

Returning Home: Reclaiming Nazi-Looted Jewish Materials

9-10:30 a.m.

This session will tell the story of the UCLA Library's repatriation of Judaica books to the Jewish Museum in Prague (JMP) within the context of the Holocaust and the looting of Jewish cultural artifacts. It will detail JMP's efforts at recovering lost materials and UCLA's process in preparing the items for return. It will also include another case study of a restituted collection that was donated to the UCLA Library.


  • Lisa Leff, Professor of History, American University; Director of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • Michal Bušek, Jewish Studies Researcher, Jewish Museum in Prague
  • Diane Mizrachi, Librarian for Jewish and Israel Studies and Social Sciences, UCLA Library
  • Russell Johnson, Curator for History of Medicine and the Sciences, UCLA Library Special Collections

Moderator: Renata Fuchs, Lecturer, Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies and Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, UCLA

Panel 2: Wednesday, May 18

Entangled Collections: Colonial Histories and the Ethics of Ownership and Stewardship

9-10:30 a.m.

This session will provide an overview of the global history of colonialism and its outsized role in the development of cultural heritage collections, particularly in the Western world. Using examples of repatriation to Africa and Southeast Asia, panelists will discuss the ethics of ownership and stewardship, the fight by formerly-colonized countries to reclaim their heritage, and what constitutes full restitution. 


  • Alice Procter, art historian and writer
  • Ndubuisi Ezeluomba, Françoise Billion Richardson Curator of African Art, New Orleans Museum of Art
  • Panggah Ardiyansyah, PhD candidate, History of Art and Archaeology Department, SOAS University of London

Moderator: Susan Slyomovics, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages & Cultures, UCLA

Panel 3: Wednesday, May 18

Beyond NAGPRA: Centering Cultural Sovereignty and Indigenous Knowledge Systems

2-3:30 p.m.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is the law that covers repatriation in the United States. Considering its limitations, what is the responsibility of libraries, archives, and museums in relinquishing ownership of other Native items? How have other countries dealt with repatriation? The panelists will examine these issues, provide repatriation examples, and discuss how Indigenous communities, knowledge systems, and processes could and should be centered moving forward.


  • Wendy Giddens Teeter, Cultural Resources Archaeologist, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians 
  • Mishuana Goeman (Tonawanda Band of Seneca), Professor of Gender Studies and American Indian Studies; Special Advisor to the Chancellor on Native American and Indigenous Affairs, UCLA
  • Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Lynn Malerba (Mohegan Tribe), Lifetime Chief 
  • Jennifer R. O’Neal (The Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde), Assistant Professor, Department of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies, University of Oregon

Moderator: Camille Callison (Tahltan Nation), University Librarian, University of the Fraser Valley; Co-Lead, National Indigenous Knowledge and Language Alliance

Panel 4: Thursday, May 19

Paving a Way Forward: Current and Future Approaches to Restitution

12:30-2 p.m.

Due to colonialism and looting, many Western cultural heritage institutions have numerous items in their collections that belong to other countries and communities. What can be done to amend the status quo? This session will provide examples of current policies and processes of governments, institutions, and individuals related to the repatriation of cultural objects. Panelists will also discuss the challenges of and opportunities for decolonizing libraries, archives, and museums, including the importance of reparative and cooperative practices.


  • Damien Webb (Palawa), Manager, Indigenous Engagement Branch, State Library of New South Wales 
  • Leila Amineddoleh, Founding Partner, Amineddoleh & Associates, LLC; Adjunct Professor of Law, New York University
  • Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll, Professor, Central European University - Vienna 

Moderator: T-Kay Sangwand, Librarian for Digital Collection Development, UCLA Library

Repatriation has increasingly become an important topic in the museum, anthropology, and archaeology worlds, yet it is but a blip on the radar in library and archive circles. In conjunction with its return of Judaica items to the Jewish Museum in Prague (JMP), the UCLA Library’s International & Area Studies Department is hosting an online symposium featuring international experts, who will discuss the complicated histories of Western cultural heritage collections, the expropriation of artifacts through colonialism and war, the politics and ethics of ownership and restitution, and decolonization in libraries, archives, and museums. Using case studies as the bases for these discussions, the symposium is intended to bring greater awareness of these issues within libraries and archives. It will also be of interest to scholars in anthropology, archaeology, area studies, art history, history, Indigenous studies, information studies, law, and museum studies.