The author of this article, reflects on the destruction of many of Pakistan’s archaeological sites & how perhaps the viewpoint that the works would be better preserved in foreign museums is a valid one.
This argument is often put forward by the British Museum, but in many ways should not apply to cases such as the Elgin Marbles, with Greece being as much a western country as Britain is.
Another bigger problem that I have with this argument however, is the suggestion in it that the countries who have lost their artworks to western museums & collectors had some element of choice in the matter, or that there was a level of discussion about how the artefacts could best be preserved. The reality however is that in many cases collectors greedily took whatever they could & then later sold it to museums in the west. There was no consensus that this was the best approach, nor did any unbiased international body ever appoint the museums to carry out this task. They are (in my personal opinion) merely using this argument to try & post-rationalise their earlier misdemeanours, based on events that have happened in these countries after the artefacts were taken (or in some cases, based on events that might possibly happen, but that have not.)
Daily Times (Pakistan)
Thursday, November 18, 2004
LETTER FROM LONDON: Squandering our patrimony
There has been a long debate about the right of ex-colonial powers to keep the antiquities they carried off with them from around the world. The counter-argument is that at least people can see historical objects at museums in London, Paris and New York. Had they stayed in their places of origin, they would probably have been stolen and kept in private collections
Last week, this newspaper carried a story about the plunder of our archaeological sites. Based on a report published in The Times of London, the account told us how 90 percent of Pakistan’s historical sites had been (and are) wide open to robbers who have been digging up rare and valuable artefacts and smuggling them out of the country. Many of these pieces end up in London’s antiquity market.
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