“Deja Vu All Over Again”

Yogi Berra, coined the phrase, “This is like déjà vu all over again!” making a humorous statement planted from misused repetition. Déjà vu all over again is apparent in our current lives seen in the topic of museum looting, yet does not connote the same kind of humor as Yogi Berra.

During World War II, Nazi Germany raided and destroyed both large and small cultural museums as well as homes filled with private collections. This war tactic stripped a culture of its historical legitimacy and heritage, showing the German’s act of genocide went so far as to extinct Jewish and Polish entire existences by demolishing their ancestral objects as well. More than half a century later, looted artwork from this time period is popping up today, while others are still missing.

We see the process of deja vu all over again, when in 2003, the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad was raided after the United States invasion of Iraq. Mostly native Iraqi looters stole ancient Middle Eastern heritage of great importance to both Iraqis and the world. In both cases we can see an attack on individual cultural pasts.

A culture’s credence rests upon the evidence provided by accumulated ancestral objects. Therefore, the importance of these objects must not be overlooked. The issue of museum looting is greatly important in the United States due to the acquisition of these objects in our major museums nationwide. On a local level, back in the 80’s, there was a case of looted objects found in the Kelsey Museum on Archeology collection here on campus. Acquisition policies in museums have recently reformed, becoming more aware of the object’s origins and deaccessioning looted objects back to their country of origin.

Museums can learn from their past acquisition mistakes in order to prevent déjà vu all over again in the future.

It’s history and it’s present!

Sara Olds

University of Michigan Student interested in mobilizing the arts in the community

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