Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Anthropology

First Advisor

Christina Kreps

Second Advisor

Bonnie J. Clark

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Campbell


Indigenous Australian artifact, Indigenous Torres Strait Islander artifact, Artifacts, Gweagal shield, Museum studies, Repatriation


This thesis analyzes the discourse of repatriation in connection to the Encounters exhibition held by the National Museum of Australia in 2015. Indigenous Australian and Torres Strait Islander artifacts were loaned to the Australian museum by the British Museum. At the close of the exhibition, one item, the Gweagal shield, was claimed for repatriation. The repatriation request had not been approved at the time of this research. The Gweagal shield is a historically significant artifact for Indigenous and non- Indigenous Australians. Analysis takes into account the political economy of the two museums and situates the exhibition within the relevant museum policies. This thesis argues that, while the shield has not yet returned to Australia, the discussions about what a return would mean are part of the larger process of repatriation. It is during these discussions that the rights to material culture are negotiated. Because many of the goals of repatriation are realized during throughout the process, the relationships built between museums and source communities are crucial. These relationships have the potential to support the preservation of Indigenous heritage beyond formal repatriation.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Ellyn DeMuynck


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

160 p.


Museum studies, Cultural anthropology