Museology Master of Arts Program

April 6, 2021

Understanding How Museum Visitors Perceive Antiquities Repatriations

Research Thesis by Hayley Makinster

Repatriation within museums continues to be an important topic widely discussed by museum professionals, as legal frameworks and guidelines such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and the 1970 UNESCO Convention continue to emphasize the importance of cultural heritage to their original communities and governments. Although visitors are major stakeholders in nonprofit museums, there is little research regarding visitors’ attitudes towards repatriation, including how visitors respond to various repatriation practices. As such, this study explored visitors’ attitudes to repatriation, specifically focusing on responses to high-profile antiquities repatriations. Using a descriptive survey design, the researcher conducted semi-structured interviews with 40 participants via Zoom. Findings suggest that a majority of museum visitors have some general foreknowledge of repatriation. Study participants attributed repatriation awareness to various avenues, including popular culture references and educational programs. A majority of participants supported the repatriation of certain objects based on several factors and expressed interest in museums engaging their visitors in repatriation conversations. This study paves the way for future research on visitors’ attitudes towards repatriation, from which museums and researchers alike will continue to benefit.


Makinster, H. M. (2020). Understanding how museum visitors perceive antiquities repatriations (Order No. 28001756). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ University of Washington WCLP; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (2439612116). Retrieved from


Antiquities, Collections, Repatriation, Visitor studies