February 28, 2006
Cases such as that of the Euphronios Krater & the indictment of Getty curator Marion True are giving publicity to many other restitution claims. One thing that has transpired from these claims is the dubious roles of many collectors in helping museums build their collections.
In a move that has irritated the archaeological community, museums in the USA are now proposing a code of conduct to try & clarify what is & isn’t questionable behaviour.
The big problem with this declaration though is that the museums are arguing that the historic / aesthetic importance of artefacts should be able to over-ride a non-existent provenance, to allow certain items to be exhibited. Their argument is that otherwise these items would remain in the hands of private collectors anyway & never be seen by the public. Archaeologists argue that putting these items in museums legitimises them & encourages the trafficking of looted artefacts. Evidence suggests that the Archaeologists are correct in this instance & the museums are only interest in these limitations as a way of avoiding further lawsuits / negative publicity, while being seen to do the right thing.
New York Times
Museums Assert Right on Showing Antiquities
By HUGH EAKIN
Published: February 25, 2006
Over the last decade the benign image of the antiquities collector has given way to a far more sinister one. Once cast as generous lenders and donors — the lifeblood of American museums — such collectors are now seen as central cogs in a conspiracy to move artifacts looted from foreign soil into museum display cases.
“The impression is we’re in a cabal with bandits,” said Michael Conforti, director of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, in Williamstown, Mass., referring to damaging evidence that has emerged in an Italian crackdown on the illegal antiquities trade.
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