February 4, 2007

Should European museums be opening up satellite branches abroad?

Posted at 9:30 am in British Museum, Similar cases

Many in France have tried to challenge the Louvre’s right to start outsourcing some of its assets to museums around the world that it might have partial control over. This article looks at the relevance to Turkey of such arguments.

Zaman (Turkey)

Should European museums open up branches in other countries?
France’s art community has been debating the mobility of its museums’ artifacts.

Archaeologists and historians have been alarmed since the Louvre Museum of Paris initiated opening a branch in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.
A campaign with the slogan “Museums are not for sale” has been implemented with national museums opening branches outside of the country. The French press is allotting quite a bit of room to the debates after the Louvre Museum, which has 7.5 million visitors each year, first began a business partnership with the Atlanta Museum in the US followed by its attempts to open a branch in Abu Dhabi.

Liberation newspaper, under the headline “Should the Louvre Museum be cloned?” examined the pros and cons of displaying world-famous historical and cultural collections in other countries. After the news piece determined that the value of cultural heritage is affected negatively when museums become a business, Le Monde newspaper responded that it was a practical manifesto for the slogan “Museums are not for sale.”
It is not known whether the article will influence the decision of the Louvre Museum; in the meantime, the topics of Beaubourg Museum relocating to China’s second largest city, Shanghai, and the Rodin Museum moving to Salvador da Bahia in Brazil are being discussed. While this topic awaits unraveling, we have asked experts what the situation was in Turkey and whether projects such as this could become realized here.

Professor Mustafa İsen, undersecretary of the ministry of culture and tourism:

Works displayed at important museums such as the Topkapı Museum, the Louvre and the British Museum should be the common legacy of humanity and should be shared with everyone. The way to accomplish this, however, is not through opening branches in other locations. Although these artifacts are everyone’s legacy, they belong to the land that created them. With this in mind, the museums that are being discussed should carry the artifacts to foreign lands under thematic exhibits. We, in previous years, opened an exhibit in England that was comprised of artifacts gathered from 11 countries. This year the ministry plans to open seven more exhibits. I support these exhibits being on display for the world, but what I don’t support is this becoming a permanent move.

İlber Ortaylı, Topkapı Museum chairman

We are discussing topics such as this, but we don’t have the necessary budget or staff to consider such a move. It’s so distant from us at this point.

İsmail Karamut, chairman of the Archaeology Museum

Our situation is very different from that of the Louvre Museum. The Louvre displays works from other museums. Our artifacts, however, are from our own land and culture. We have museums and cultural remnants in every corner of our nation. The large demand to see these artifacts is met with temporary exhibits. Another thing: I am against artifacts being moved around. I think that the changes in climate and travel damage the artifacts. I especially condemn this being done for commercial and financial gain. It’s one thing to travel with them for science and research purposes, quite another for monetary gain. Temporary exhibits can take place, granted they travel in excellent conditions.

M.Özalp Birol, Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation Pera Museum chairman

Our museum may display artifacts temporarily outside of the country in selected museums and galleries. However, we are not thinking of opening a branch outside of Turkey. As for the Louvre’s decision, they have millions of items they can’t display due to lack of space. It was transformed into a museum from a château as of the end of the 18th century and receives 6 million visitors each year. When I look at it from the point of view of a businessman or a manager, besides its financial gain, the name branding of the Louvre and allowing it to be displayed on a globally strategic front would give France a different advantage in waving its flag. This is an important strategic move. This shows the significance of cultural art in both the economy and prestige of a nation.


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