Watch: Candace Owens accuses museums of 'money laundering' and calls for them to be defunded
Conservative commentator Candace Owens stated on Thursday's edition of her Daily Wire talk show that she is "anti-museum" and declared that archival institutions serve no useful purpose.
"What are your thoughts on the British Museum and other artifacts from other cultures? They have returned many of them to Nigeria. Do you think they should return them?" a viewer identified only as "Jensen" asked Owens.
Last November, The Guardian reported that the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London surrendered six relics that were "looted by British troops 125 years ago from Benin City, in what is now Nigeria, are being repatriated to their place of origin, increasing pressure on the British Museum to follow suit."
These types of reconciliations are gradually increasing in frequency.
In 2021, Forbes reported that "the push for repatriation of art and artifacts with questionable histories has become more widespread in recent years, which experts attribute to advances in research techniques, a rise in interest in art looted by Nazis during World War II and a renewed focus on the issue of racism and colonialism in the art world after worldwide Black Lives Matter protests kicked off last year."
Similarly, in October 2022, Washingtonian highlighted the Smithsonian Institution's efforts to return items in its collection to their rightful cultural homes:
The Smithsonian Institution announced in May a new return policy for stolen or otherwise unethically sourced artifacts. On October 11, the National Gallery of Art (which is not part of the Smithsonian) and the National Museum of African Art transferred ownership of 30* Benin bronzes in their collections back to the people of Nigeria. In 1897, British troops raided the kingdom of Benin as a punitive response to an earlier attack launched by the king. The troops burned and looted the royal palace, and took stolen treasures back to London to pay for the raid. Over 2,000 bronzes are now in public and private collections all over the world, mostly in the US, the UK, and Germany.
Nonetheless, Owens responded to Jensen's question by calling for the elimination of museums across the board.
"You know, I actually, kind of, hate a lot of museums because they steal our tax dollars. And so, yeah, defund all of the museums and send back all of the artifacts. The amount of money that was given in the COVID bill, the trillions of dollars, all of it going to, like, the Kennedy Center, the African-American Museum. And what did they do? The people that sit on the boards take all of the money. It's kind of become this huge money laundering operation," Owens said.
"And yeah, I say return it all," she added. "If you want to see something, go to the country, you know? So, I'm actually totally fine with that only because I'm very anti-museum because they stole a lot of our money."
While museums did receive government funds during the pandemic, that money was primarily to prevent them from shutting down and to ensure that their social programs could continue their work.
For example, The Washington Post explained in 2020:
The NYC Covid-19 Response & Impact Fund will be just a start. They intend it to serve as a model for similar funds or grants outside New York, to address the unprecedented shutdown of museums, concert halls and other venues and its impact on artists, writers and musicians. Social service organizations provide, among other things, housing, child care and food to people in need.
The fund will provide grants and loans to groups with budgets of $20 million or less, to pay for everything from technology for newly remote workers to general operating support. Examples of organizations eligible to apply are the Weeksville Heritage Center, Bronx Museum of Art and El Museo del Barrio.
The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services also noted at the onset of the coronavirus crisis that the CARES Act – signed into law by then-President Donald Trump – provided the necessary backing for institutions to remain operational.
“As Americans are sheltering in place, working from home, and isolating themselves from all but their closest family, the digital divide only deepens,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “The need for access to information about the virus, government actions, and community safety messages in addition to telemedicine, job, and unemployment resources is crucial. This funding sustains our most trusted institutions as they provide vitally important information and useful tools to our citizens. IMLS is committed to channeling this much-needed grant-based funding as quickly as possible to help the impacted library and museum sectors as they continue to support their communities.”
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