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Dutch Supreme Court Demands Borrowed Museum Artifacts Returned to Ukraine

By: Johanna Wu

The Dutch Supreme Court instructed the Dutch museum's trove of historical treasures from Crimea that the artifacts be sent to Ukraine, upholding a lower court ruling that the 300 artifacts are part of Ukraine’s cultural heritage.

These artifacts are around 2,000 years old and are on display at the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam. The four Crimean museums and the two Ukrainian governments in Kyiv demanded that Allard Pierson give back the artifacts they had loaned them, which include bronze swords, golden helmets, and precious gems. The Amsterdam Museum didn’t give back the artifacts, rather they decided to store the items until a court weighed in on their fate.

The Hague-based Supreme Court ended the argument by ordering the collection to be returned to Ukraine. “Although the museum pieces originate from Crimea and can therefore also be regarded as Crimean heritage, they are part of the cultural heritage of Ukraine,” the ruling argued.

A negotiation in 2014 between the four museums and Ukrainian authorities failed, so the Allard Pierson Museum took the matter to court. The District Court of Amsterdam cited the 1970 UNESCO convention, in 2016. They found out that the objects must be returned to the sovereign state that loaned them and the issue of ownership should be decided by a Ukrainian court. The Crimean Museums appealed and Russia threatened to stop lending objects to Dutch museums if they didn’t return the artifacts. In 2021, an appeals court again asked that the Artifact be sent to Ukraine.

The Allard Pierson Museum says they will now make the decision and return the artifacts. The legal fees and storage have cost the museum about more than 500,000 euros, about 580,000 dollars in U.S. currency. It is still unsure when this will take place.

Many museums loan or borrow artifacts, paintings, and lots of other objects and might not want to give them back. Usually, it is because they would lose financial opportunities. They might not want to give back artifacts and other objects, just like the Allard Pierson Museum didn’t want to give back what they borrowed.


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