Digital Benin brings together all objects, historical photographs and rich documentation material from collections worldwide to provide a long-requested overview of the royal artefacts from Benin Kingdom looted in the late nineteenth century. The historic Benin objects are an expression of Benin arts, culture and history, and were originally used as royal representational arts, to depict historical events, to communicate, to worship and perform rituals.
The digital platform introduces new scholarship which connects digital documentation about the translocated objects to oral histories, object research, historical context, a foundational Edo language catalogue, provenance names, a map of the Benin Kingdom and museum collections worldwide. Digital Benin connects data from 5,246 objects across 131 institutions in 20 countries.
Digital Benin’s scope focuses on objects looted by British forces from the Kingdom of Benin (now Edo State, Nigeria) in February 1897 and distributed in its immediate aftermath. Together, these events and processes led to the worldwide translocation of the objects shown on this platform. A small set of objects is included in the catalogue to represent the broader context in which the artistic production of Benin guilds is situated: Bini-Portuguese Ivories, produced and circulated outside West Africa in the 16th centuries, objects produced in neighbouring regions of the kingdom and a selection of works produced by named artists after 1930, which are held in museum collections.
Digital Benin collates digital material from institutions, and some of this material is inherently colonial and contains words, terms and phrases that are inaccurate, derogatory and harmful towards African and African diasporic communities. Catalogue transcriptions, book titles, exhibition titles and museum titles may contain harmful terms. We recognise the potential for the material to cause physical and mental distress as well as evoke strong emotions. Owing to the scale of the collection’s data, a process to implement sensitive-content warnings in the displayed data is still incomplete. The material within the catalogue does not represent Digital Benin’s views. Digital Benin maintains a strong anti-colonial, anti-racist position and affirms its support for centring the humanity of historically marginalised and disenfranchised communities.
Read more about the background of this statement here.