History of the Collections of the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac Museum

Context, Methodology and Current Research

  • Lise Mész (Autor/in)

Identifier (Artikel)


How does the Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac Museum approach the issue of the restitution of cultural property? What research policy does it implement regarding the history and constitution of the collections it preserves? What projects have been initiated that contribute to documenting the provenance of cultural goods? This article summarizes the methodological approach of the institution, which has started to prioritize, in its scientific and cultural policy, the research into the history of its collections and their provenance. Multidisciplinary research projects and multi-institutional partnerships are carried out with scientific teams in the countries of origin and together with indigenous communities to shed light on the shared history of the collections. These joint research projects bear witness to the evolution of professional practices and a change of paradigm: the history of and discourse on the collections kept in the museum are not the monopoly of the institution but are constructed with professionals from the countries of origin in a more open and collaborative conception of heritage policies. This article presents: 1) an overview of the political and legal contexts in France in which requests for the restitution of cultural property are made, 2) the museum’s research policy on the history of collections, and 3) some results of provenance research through two case-studies of objects from colonial contexts in Africa.

Keywords: Provenance research; colonial contexts; Africa; returns; museal policy


Provenance research, colonial contexts, Africa, returns, museal policy