Matthew Miller
Dec 10, 2021

Virtual tour gives 'unfiltered' history of British Museum's stolen artefacts

With Dentsu Webchutney, Vice World News has created a virtual tour of the 10 most disputed items in the British Museum, narrated by people from the communities those objects were taken from.

In a provocative move taking aim at museums that proudly display the priceless stolen fruits of colonial-era plunder, Vice World News has created an unauthorised tour of the British Museum's 10 most disputed items, "as told by the people from the countries they were taken from".

The 'Unfiltered History' tour allows museum visitors to scan items, such as the Rosetta Stone, to begin an augmented-reality experience that discusses their history—and the circumstances of the looting that brought them to Britain. People everywhere can also learn the history of the items via a tour on Instagram, a 10-part podcast series, and a series of videos on the individual objects (see one below).


In addition to the Rosetta Stone, the content discusses Australia’s Gweagal Shield (shown above), India’s Amaravati Marbles, Iraq’s Ashurbanipal reliefs, Nigeria’s Benin Bronzes, Ghana’s Akan Drum, Greece’s Parthenon Marbles, Rapa Nui’s Hoa Hakananai’a, Jamaica’s Birdman and Boinayel figures, and China’s Summer Palace.

The Vice World News content series explores not only the items themselves but the history and ongoing impact of colonialism, as well as the museum-restitution movement, which demands the return of these items and millions more. 

In the video above, which promotes the tour, the experts Vice has interviewed touch on how the imperialistic attitudes that drove the initial looting persist today in assertions that these objects are better off being protected and explained by Western institutions. The implication being that the people from whose cultures the objects were stolen are not capable of properly caring for them or interpreting their importance in history.

The website for the campaign ends with an input field that asks, "Which museum would you like us to unfilter next?"

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