Collections: British Museum

Department for Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 20 September 2023.

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Photo of Lord Boateng Lord Boateng Labour

To ask His Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of (1) whether the items held by the British Museum looted from Britain’s former colonial possessions in West Africa, or during Britain’s historic military expeditions on that continent, have been catalogued; and (2) the extent of knowledge of the contents of such collections.

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

The British Museum has 8 million objects in its collection, with 4.5 million currently on the Museum’s public database. The Museum is undertaking an ongoing digitisation project which will ensure that all the objects in its care will be catalogued and available to its global audience on its public database.

The Museum’s collections from Africa are well-catalogued, to the benefit of the public and researchers from across the world. The Museum undertakes extensive research into its collections, including in partnership with African institutions. This is available online at:

The British Museum also has strong links with a variety of African partners. Since 2005, through the Africa Programme, the Museum has worked collaboratively with partner institutions to deliver training and workshops in museum practice in a number of African countries. Colleagues from across Africa also travel to the UK for project-based work placements at the Museum and in its partner museums across the UK. The world-leading annual International Training Programme run by the Museum also offers opportunities for African colleagues to meet peers from global heritage institutions.

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