HAS MEXICO RENOUNCED HER CLAIM TO MONTEZUMAS FEATHER CROWN THAT IS IN THE VIENNA ETHNOLOGY MUSEUM?
HAS MEXICO RENOUNCED HER CLAIM TO MONTEZUMAS FEATHER CROWN IN THE VIENNA ETHNOLOGY MUSEUM?
President Vicente Fox asked the visiting Austrian president, Heinz Fischer, for his help in returning the headdress of the Aztec leader Montezuma, which is nearly five centuries old, has been in the possession of Austria since 1524 and is on exhibit in a Vienna museum. Antonio Betancourt (1)
Montezumas Feather Crown, Mexico, now in Ethnology Museum, Vienna, Austria
When we dealt with this topic last year, we were under the impression that the Austrians were in serious negotiations with Mexican authorities for the return, permanent or temporary, of the contested feather crown attributed to Montezuma. (2) Recent statements by the director of the Ethnology Museum, Vienna, Dr.Steven Boudewijn Engelsman, has thrown doubts on the belief that this Mexican cultural artefact will ever return to its country of origin.
Speaking on Austrian Radio (ORF1) on 14 November, 2012, in connection with a new exhibition in Vienna,Penacho: Pomp and Passion -The Mexican Feather Headdress in Vienna, Director, Engelsman, said that, as a matter of fact, the Mexicans authorities, have never formally asked for the return of the famous feather crown and that claims for the return for the artefacts came only from persons in Austria. This shocked us very much since in the previous article mentioned above, we had cited enough evidence that the Mexican authorities have indeed requested the return of the crown.
Not worried by his own contradictions, the director said in the same radio broadcast that when he was director at the National Museum of History of Science in the Netherlands, some twenty years ago, on the occasion of a visit by a high official from Mexico to Holland, the Mexican official was asked whether there was any item in the Dutch museums that Mexico wanted returned; the official responded no but there was one item in Vienna that Mexico wanted returned. Now the same director has to deal with this matter.
Another contradiction by the director was the statement that regarding the
possibility of allowing the crown to travel to Mexico, the Mexicans want themselves to have experts examine whether the item can travel at all. The director of the History of Art Museum (Kunsthistorisches Museum) has also been reported in an Austrian newspaper, Kurier, (15 November, 2012) that such an examination will take a long time to complete. Now, if the Mexicans have not formally requested the return of the feather crown, why would they be concerned with the conditions of travel for the feather crown? And why will the Austrians take an interest in what Mexicans are saying in this regard? Either the Mexicans have officially requested the return of Montezumas crown or they have not. (3)
It seems the director of the Ethnology Museum is resorting to the discredited strategy and bogus arguments of the universal museums as described in
our article mentioned above; we have described these tactics, used in the past by the British Museum with regard to the Benin artefacts and by the Berlin Neues Museum with regard to the restitution of Nefertiti, as unworthy of the venerable museums. It seems though that many are not worried about presenting such arguments.
Protest for the return of Montezumas to Mexico.
The excellent catalogue of the exhibition. Der Altmexiksnische Federkopfschmuck, the work of a group of Austrians and Mexicans, adopts more balanced view (4) The curator of the exhibition, Gerard van Bussel, has stated that whatever may be the truth about the crown, whether it was used by Montezuma or used by some priest, it has become a symbol of Mexican identity and as such, a settled part of the collective memory of Mexicans of Indian and non-Indian origins. (5)
It is the importance of this artefact for Mexican culture and identity that should be in the forefront of any considerations on restitution.
All considered, Mexico has every reason to expect Austria to treat it well in the matter of the restitution of Montezumas Feather Crown.
Kwame Opoku, 19 November.
Published: June 1, 2005
Anne Dellemann, Keine bilateralen Probleme – abgesehen von Montezumas Federkronehttp://www.nofretete-geht-auf-reisen.de/penacho.htm
Montezumas Crown on agenda of Austrian Parliament,http://www.parlament.gv.at/PAKT/VHG/XXII/A/A_00608/index.shtml
2. Kwame Opoku, Now is the Time for Austria to Act on the Restitution of Montezumas Crown to Mexico http://www.museum-security.org
See also Artnewspaper article, titled Handing back to Mexico a step at a time, Issue 222. March 2011 www.theartnewspaper.com. The article states inter alia,
Mexico and Austria have moved a step closer to sharing Moctezumas Crown as Austria seriously considers returning the feathered headdress on loan for three years. It would mean that for the first time in 500 years the headdress returns to Mexico. The Mexican government is even discussing a change in its antiquities law to make the loan possible. Should the loan happen, it would set an important precedent for European museums with contentious objects in their collections.
3. See article in France 24 International News www.france24.com/…/20121118-mo. titled. Moctezuma headdress stirs passions in Mexico, Austria,
which states inter alia, Former Mexican President Vicente Fox appealed to his Austrian counterpart Heinz Fischer to send the Penacho back during the latter’s visit to Mexico in 2005, and indigenous Mexicans have repeatedly demanded the return of what they consider the “sacred crown of Moctezuma
4. Sabine Haag, Alfonso de Maria y Campos, Lilia Rivero Weber and Christian Feest (Editors), ZKF Publishers, Instituto Nacional de Antropologia, Museum fur Vlkerkunde, 2012
5.Gerard W. van Bussel, Der altmexikanische Federkopfschmuck, Aspekte seiner Rezeptionsgeschichte, Ibid. p.130
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