A number of years ago I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see the Alta Mira
paintings, as well as visit a number of other sites in France and Spain. I am
pretty sure that they are all now closed to the public, because of the unintentional
damage done by visitors.
> Well, yes; shown in a modern gallery, they would be very much out-of-
> context. But there is one site of cave-paintings that is so delicate
> that a replica *site* has been built so that people can at least see
> something of what is there.
> The idea is not to simply strip out what is repatriated, but to replace
> it with well-made replicas.
Again for many replicas would work, but there is something about knowing that you
are seeing something that is hundreds or thousands of years old. And even more, the
rare chance to actually hold something. The awe factor is just not there for
replicas. On the other hand if the replica is good enough, it might drive some to
make the effort to see the original.
> You are quite right, but that was then and this is now. A condition of
> repatriation must be that proper conservation is guaranteed.
Most of the rest of the world is not North America or Western Europe. Look at what
happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina recently. The various sides, at least from the
accounts I have seen especially the Serbs, deliberately destroyed museums and
libraries. They deliberately destroyed cultural heritage. In India the Hindus
destroy mosques, the Muslims destroy temples in retaliation. How much that was
Jewish is left in the part of Jerusalem that was under Arab control? Recently a
bunch of Radical Muslims blew up a synagogue in North Africa.
> These are more accessible to you, but less accessible to the descendants
> of the builders.
On the other hand so what. Most countries still have the vast majority of their
cultural heritage, and the majority of their citizens, unfortunately, couldn't care
less. What percentage of Egyptians have visited the pyramids or the Cairo Museum?
People here are no different, and I suspect neither are the British. Except for
school field trips the majority don't go to art museums. But for those who do, and
more importantly for those who go on field trips and whose imaginations are fired by
what they see, those collections are invaluable. If you repatriate the "good
stuff", you will inspire fewer people to go into archaeology, history, etc.
Where does one draw the line on repatriation? Are only the Italians able to
properly interpret and exhibit Roman artifacts? Must everything Greek be returned
to Greece? All Van Gogh's to the Netherlands? God I hope not. It might make a few
politicians and ultra nationalists happy, but the loss to the world would be