Who Owns the Past?

an artifact

This lesson focuses on the issue of ethics in museum acquisition of pieces of cultural heritage. Because students at this grade level have not likely encountered this hot-button issue before, the lesson specifically deals with introducing the concept of cultural heritage, and the debate on “theft” of such heritage, in ways that young students may more easily relate to. The Origins article students use in this lesson describes several pieces of cultural heritage which are located in museums far away from their places of origin, while also relaying complications and controversies in the ethics of their “repatriation”.
The lesson begins with a clip from the popular film Black Panther in order to illustrate the relevance of the topic and generate discussion. The instructor then guides the students to identify examples of three kinds of cultural heritage from their own national, state, and local cultures. On the second day of the lesson, students discuss how they would feel if some of those examples of cultural heritage were taken away from them. After, they complete a stations activity wherein they read and consider real-world examples of cultural theft and repatriation. Students demonstrate their learning by generating the aforementioned examples and arguing who should get to keep cultural heritage.

Instructional Strategies:
• Whole-Class Discussion
• Think-Pair-Share
• Stations


Teaching Area
Ancient History
World History to 1500
World History since 1500
Grade Level
Downloadable Files
Who Owns the Past Lesson Plan.docx
Who Owns the Past Extension Activity.docx
Who Owns the Past Presentation.pptx
Who Owns the Past Sources.docx
Who Owns the Past Stations Handout Differentiated.docx
Who Owns the Past Stations Worksheet.docx
Who Owns the Past Think Pair Share.docx
Who Owns the Past Lesson Description.docx