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June 6, 2008

Freer circulation of cultural artefacts

Posted at 3:16 pm in Similar cases

Depending on who you speak to, freer circulation of cultural property is either a great idea, or a terrible thing. It all hangs on whether they think they will benefit or not from such a move. Those who argue against help to prop up the anti-deaccessioning clauses in the charters of many of the UK’s leading museums. Maybe people need to accept that there is no right or wrong answer – what is good in some situations may be bad in others – so it should not be the role of the law to put blanket regulations in place that stifle any efforts at interpretation based on the case in hand.

The Art Newspaper

Do we really want the freer circulation of cultural goods?
Kavita Singh | 5.6.08 | Issue 192

A few years ago, I received a grant from the Getty Foundation for a project on museums in South Asia. I was just about to send 12 researchers to around 100 museums all over India, to get a sense of what place museums occupy in the social landscape of the country today. I asked the Secretary of the Department of Culture for a letter of support, but when I met her, I got an earful. She said, you are going to send people to museums in remote places that have valuable artefacts and very poor security. You will submit your reports to the Getty, and then all our things will begin to disappear.

I dismissed this bureaucrat’s remarks as an aberration, but in 2007 the same sorts of anxieties surfaced next door to India, as the Bangladesh National Museum made preparations for a loan exhibition to the Musée Guimet in Paris.
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