Caren Holmes, MA Postcolonial Studies
While she has only submitted FOI requests for two items, both have raised red flags about the school’s compliance with due diligence procedures,
Dr Angela Chiu, who has a PhD in Thai Art History, has expressed growing concern about the number of potentially looted items within the SOAS collection. While she has only submitted FOI requests for two items, both have raised red flags about the school’s compliance with due diligence procedures, the decolonizing SOAS vision, as well as international standards of art trading designed to prevent the continued circulation of looted artefacts. Chiu has published her ongoing investigations into these items on her blog SOASWatch.org
In 2009, University College London (UCL) staff discovered 16 Ban Chiang antiquities within their university’s collection. UCL subsequently gave all 16 items back to the Thai Department of Fine Arts, setting a precedent of identifying and returning potentially looted items within university possession. Chiu hopes that SOAS will follow suit, auditing their own collection and returning potentially looted items to their countries of origin.
A SOAS spokesperson says that the university is reviewing procedures for the management and stewardship of the SOAS collection and that an audit of the collection is already underway, explaining that “the issue of the appropriateness of continuing to hold items – including this specific Ban Chiang pot – will be considered as part of that audit.”
Photo Credits: soaswatch.org