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18 August 2020

King's alumna directs short documentary about the repatriation of artefacts

Should museums return cultural artefacts? Issabella Orlando, King's Classics alumna, presents key arguments both for and against returning objects to countries of origin in her directorial debut, 'The Return Address: Where does heritage belong?'.

Photo of museum statue

Today more than ever, museums face renewed demands over the repatriation of artefacts deemed culturally significant to communities across the world. In a new short documentary spearheaded by King's Classics alumna, Issabella Orlando, called 'The Return Address: Where Does Heritage Belong?', valid arguments for and against sending museum collections back to their countries of origin are presented to clarify these deep-rooted discussions; not just amongst Classics and art students, but beyond the academic sector to museum-goers across the globe.

"First and foremost, the idea for the documentary came to me while studying and travelling through Greece on the British School at Athen's summer school course for undergraduate students in the Department of Classics."

"I happened to meet a filmmaker by chance who agreed to work with me on the filming, editing and production side of things, but I was responsible for everything else – from the research, concept, writing, right through to the overall message."

The documentary answers fundamental questions exploring the ramifications and benefits of the repatriation debate from a neutral perspective:

  • What are the repercussions of sending artefacts to their homes?
  • How might the return of artefacts affect museums on a larger scale?
  • What types of 'heritage' matter?
  • What objects do we need to preserve for the future?
  • Can modern cultures really claim to be living relatives of ancient ancestors?
  • The decolonisation of museums
A still from the documentary showcasing historical artefacts being handled by museum workers
A still from the documentary showcasing historical artefacts being handled by museum workers

Issabella credits her degree at King's, which inspired her to pursue the documentary.

My degree covered plenty of literary and artistic material related to Classical reception, the space of the museum, and ideologies of memory and identity which provided the foundational understanding and knowledge base from which I was equipped to develop the visual and written concepts for the documentary."  

Issabella Orlando

She interviewed four King's academics, Dr Tassos Papacostas, Professor Michael Squire, Dr Will Wootton and Dr Hiba Alkhalaf, and Dr Peter Stewart from the University of Oxford and Dr Estelle Strazdins from the University of Queensland. 

"These discussions were incredibly helpful, and the people I spoke to often forwarded me more content that I further looked into, all of which constituted a wide body of research."

Initially beginning with no budget, Issabella was able to secure funding from grants and trusts through King's postgraduate funding scheme, and launched a GoFundMe where she raised over £2300 to cover film expenses.

Now with great success, the documentary has launched online at Vimeo with a premiere planned to take place across universities throughout the UK and beyond once conditions relating to Covid-19 are more suitable.

Watch the full short documentary for 'The Return Address: Where Does Heritage Belong?'.