LONDON—As the debate continues over whether European and American institutions should return artworks and objects forcibly removed from formerly colonized areas, the British Museum announced Friday that it would take a compromise route by launching its collection of stolen African artifacts into space. “It’s best for everyone if no one can have them,” British Museum chair George Osborne said as curators loaded bronze masks, clay pottery, and textiles created by hundreds of ancient African societies into rockets that would be launched directly at the sun. “It is the museum’s highest priority to correct the errors of our colonial past, but at the same time, we recognize that it is unfeasible to return all of these artifacts safely to the descendants of their original creators. Furthermore, removing the artifacts from their concentrated location here at the museum and dispersing them across a continent flies in the face of our mission to collect and curate a full record of the past. Therefore, we have decided to keep our collection together by launching it all into space in one large spacecraft that will orbit Earth for all eternity. We trust this will put an end to all the calls for repatriation, since these objects will no longer be anywhere on the planet.” British Museum officials also clarified that they would be shuttering the museum’s African exhibits as well as erasing the continent from all world maps, explaining that without the collection of objects, Africa might as well not exist.
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