On Wednesday (June 9), the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that it would be returning two brass plaques from its collection of West African artifacts known as the Benin Bronzes. The museum is the latest in a string of institutions that announced the return of the stolen artifacts to Nigeria centuries after the British army looted the land.
In addition to two plaques, the Met said it’s working to return a third item –– a 14th-century brass head made in the city of Ife–– that was offered to be sold to the museum, according to a report by The New York Times.
“The Met is pleased to have initiated the return of these works and is committed to transparency and the responsible collecting of cultural property,” a statement from the museum reads.
The two brass plaques, “Warrior Chief” and “Junior Court Official,” date back to the 16th century and were reportedly created at the Court of Benin. They’re a part of the vast collection of artifacts stolen in 1897 when the British army raided Benin City which is located in present-day Nigeria.
Institutions and museums around the globe now house the artifacts, though several, including the British Museum, are returning the items thanks to advocacy groups.
How the Met obtained the plaques to begin with is not completely clear. A New York art collector acquired the pieces after “the two plaques entered the international market at an unknown date and under unclear circumstances,” the Met said in a statement. The collector gave the plaques to the Met in 1991.
The museum houses an estimated 160 items from Benin City, which, the museum says, were mostly given to the institution in the 1970s and 1990s from individual art collectors.
Plans to return other items, including a renown ivory mask, have reportedly not been made.