9 Oct 2013

Guernsey museum head is among eight coming home

3:05 pm on 9 October 2013

The preserved head of a tattooed Maori warrior, held in a Guernsey museum for more than 100 years, is to be returned to New Zealand.

The head was part of one of the 19th cCentury collections of antiquities that formed the basis of the island's museums service.

Its return is part of a repatriation programme run by the National Museum of New Zealand, and the head is due to be handed over to officials in a ceremony on 21 October.

The BBC reports that Guernsey Museums director Dr Jason Monaghan said it had been in the museum's store for decades.

"We do not know who exactly acquired it but antiquities were routinely exchanged between collectors and scholars, so this is probably how this came to be in Guernsey," said Dr Monaghan.

"It has been in our store for several decades now, as it is considered offensive to even display a photograph of a Toi moko."

Seven other toi moko and five koiwi tangata (Maori skeletal remains) from four institutions in the UK and Ireland are also due to be repatriated this month.

"I became aware of the [repatriation] campaign at about the same time as we were auditing our stores, trying to decide what we should keep and what we shouldn't," Dr Monaghan said.

"We wrote to Te Papa... they were really pleased we did as sometimes they have to hunt these down through detective work.

The handover ceremony at Castle Cornet will be attened by Maori elders, and the New Zealand high commissioner to London.

Te Papa estimates there are 650 ancestral remains held around the world, with the majority of these in European institutions.