Albany country by British Museum for temporary exhibition
They have been stored at the British Museum for the past 180 years.
The British Museum’s Oceania collections curator Gaye Sculthorpe said the objects, which include stone axes, spears and knives, are some of the oldest ever collected in Australia.
“They have a significance which isn’t only local but of national significance,” she said.
“It’s really difficult to describe how significant it is.
“It’s a very special day here in Albany.
“I think the people who were here… saw the emotion and the happiness to have these objects here.”
The exhibition is the culmination of four years of negotiations between the Albany Heritage Reference Group Aboriginal Corporation (AHRGAC), Western Australian Museum and British Museum.
“It’s been a long time.”
However, the objects’ return has sparked debate over whether they should remain in Albany after the exhibition ends.
Ms Gillies said some Menang elders would like to see them stay on long-term or permanent loan.
“I think that there’s a process for perhaps that happening in time,” she said.
“I don’t believe that time is right now because we do need to go through those processes.”
Menang elder Avril Dene would like the items to stay.
“If we do all the right things then hopefully, if we can’t have them here, then we can maybe have them on permanent loan from the British Museum,” she said.
“It’d just be the greatest thing to bring them back to their home country.”
“We know there are 27 other Aboriginal communities around Australia who are watching and waiting to see what happens as a result of this exhibition.”
Ms Sculthorpe would not commit to the artefacts remaining in Albany.
“It’s not generally good museum practice to have permanent loans, but the British Museum is always keen to look at ways in which its collection could be used,” she said.
“It all depends on many things… so it would be pure speculation.”