TODAY   |  May 14, 2013

Colgate University returns Aboriginal art to Australia

After discovering  an “incredibly significant” collection of Aboriginal artwork in a box of donated paintings nine years ago, Colgate University provost Doug Hicks and professor Ellen Kraly recently made the long trip to Australia to hand-deliver them home, saying “it’s the right thing to do.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now, to a story that spans half the globe and a century. five decades. some long lost artwork is making its way back to its rightful home. more now to nbc 's sara james.

>> hi. welcome to all.

>> reporter: from upstate new york all the way down under.

>> quite a trek, four flights halfway around the world .

>> i was actually thinking this little fellow is coming home for the first time in 50 years.

>> reporter: colgate professor doug hicks and another professor going to all.

>> we've lost so much.

>> and they went for a box of paintings.

>> when the art was identified we knew it was significant.

>> reporter: because these exclusive paintings were by children?

>> i took the kids from that part to here.

>> reporter: 1,000 mixed race children taken to camps like this one in all in attempt s s to spread out the ab bore rig niece and create a white australia . seen in a movie called "the white fence." and the government apologized.

>> the goal was you would disappear.

>> out of site, out of mind.

>> reporter: the children in the '40s had a teacher who introduced them to art and these children of the land had a passion for landscape, an outlet for suffering. that art toured europe and wound up with an american collector. now, half a century later --

>> how do you feel?

>> a lot of emotions.

>> yeah.

>> reporter: this gift to an australian university. an artistic down payment. soon, the entire collection comes home. for "today," sara james, nbc news, perth, australia.

>> and we're back with more, but first, this is "today" on nbc .