Blog Post

A festering fear of digital repatriation

Hello fellow HASTAC-ers,

I've recently been consumed by ideas of digital repatriation. More specifically, I was enamored by Kim Christen's Mukurtu project and set out to herald the greatness of it and how every museum and cultural heritage site ever should use it. Although I still think it is great, the more I researched, thought, and wrote about digital repatriation, the more I started to feel some anxiety.

Although we're now all (hopefully) over the digital-is-not-material hoax, what happens when we rely on the digital repatriation of indigenous artifacts instead of pushing for the dare I say actual repatriation of indigenous artifacts? Does digital repatriation reveal itself to be just another cog in the colonial machine, in that it allows for repatriation … to a fixed and pre-specified limit? In that it acts as a patch instead of an actual fix? My gut is to say, sure, let's have digital repatriation, but only alongside quote unquote actual repatriation. Am I denying the potency of the digital?

As you have probably surmised, I am a bit entangled by these ideas right now. I would welcome any feedback, ideas, or advice.

Kind regards,



Hi Alyssa,

I was really excited that you mentioned the Mukurtu project in your post! I recently learned about this project and am thinking more about how digital humanities work is not often focused on issues of culture and repatriation through technology. I don't have any specific answers to your questions, but I'm very interested in what you are asking.

When I find some cool information about this topic, I'll send it your way!


Hello Brooke,

Thank you for your comment. I too recently learnt about Mukurtu, and was admittedly swept away by it. I look forward to any future speculation you may have!