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“Universal Objects” such as Cyrus Cylinder more easily lent to US museums than Iranian ones

While its great to enable as many people as possible to see iconic ancient artefacts, I have a couple of issues with this. First of all, it seems that a loan to not one, but five different museums can take place with relatively little fuss – yet when it was loaned to Iran [1] (the original owners of the artefact), it was a long drawn out process over a number of years involving threats of legal action and to withdraw other cooperation before finally they were able to receive it.

At the end, Neil MacGregor talks about Universal Objects – clearly, this is the next step on from the Universal Museum [2], which he is is so fond of. Clearly now, we can have objects, that by association of name, if nothing else, can only be displayed in Universal Museums and are no longer valid for consideration for return to their original owners. As with the Universal Museum concept though, the real issue though, as I have mentioned before [3], is that the museums claiming to fill this role are entirely self appointed to it. No international committee chose them for this, no others were involved in assigning them to this undertaking.

New York Times [4]

November 27, 2012, 7:00 pm
A British Museum Treasure Will Visit the United States

The Cyrus Cylinder — one of the most famous objects in the British Museum — will travel from its home in London to five museums in the United States next year.

Often referred to as “the first bill of human rights” because its inscription encourages freedom of worship throughout the Persian Empire, it is a small clay object — not quite nine inches long — bearing an account, in Babylonian cuneiform, by Cyrus, the King of Persia of his conquest of Babylon in 539 B.C. The cylinder was found in what was once Babylon, now Iraq, in 1879 during a British Museum excavation and has been on display at the museum ever since. It is one of the most famous objects to have survived from the ancient world.

Although it traveled to the National Museum of Iran in 2010 it has never been on view in the United States. When it does come here, it will be one of 16 other objects from the British Museum that make up a show called “The Cyrus Cylinder in Ancient Persia,’’ illustrating innovations initiated by Persian rule in the ancient Near East from 550 B.C. to 331 B.C. and the impact of the Persian Empire had on the ancient world.

“The Cyrus Cylinder in Ancient Persia,’’ will open in March at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington before traveling to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. It will end at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, Calif., where it will be on view from Oct.2 through Dec. 2.

The loan is part of a wider effort by the British Museum to lend what it calls “universal objects” to different parts of the world.