Moving in dangerous water s here...the dread of all major museums must be
that if one returns an object to its place of origin, then the floodgates
will open. Where do you start? With something small and pretty valueless
and see what the reaction is? At this moment in time, I cannot see how
anything can be returned that was not ,within sensible reason, illicitly
gained. Where would it end ? The morality of possession covers not just
artefacts but territory and even whole countries-most of the Americas for a
start. What are a few objects beside, say, Canada? Do the Hurons have a
case? The fact is that possession is 9/10ths of the law in such cases, and
sensibly so. The Rosetta stone is now on the list of items to be returned
to Egypt. This is understandable, but given the number of other ancient
objects still left in Egypt, perhaps a bit over the top. Europeans
deciphered the hieroglyphs and surely that one intellectual act gives Europe
a portion of right to it? This has resulted in the opening up and
understanding of Ancient Egyptian history which has surely made the tourist
trade there what it is today. The rationale behind the demands and
complaints is not always the straightforward plea that it is purported to
be, containing a hidden political or nationalistic agenda for the home
voters. Berlins superimposition of Nefertiti's head aroused cries of
'defaming Islam,' yet as was pointed out, Nefertititi 's religion bears no
comparison with the Prophet's. Leave things as they are, no one can
guarantee their well being in many/most cases, any more than could be the
great cliff statues wantonly destroyed by the Taliban.
----- Original Message -----
From: "John Woodgate" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, July 24, 2003 7:13 AM
Subject: Re: Artefacts removed from context
> James Brothers <[log in to unmask]> wrote (in
> <[log in to unmask]>) about 'Artefacts removed from context',
> on Wed, 23 Jul 2003:
> >For some things replicas are all that is available. And serve well.
> >of us will ever get to look at, or even rarer handle, early hominid
> >Many Anthropology departments have a good collection of replicas.
> Indeed; if well-made, they perform a valuable service.
> >On the other hand, for some things replicas just don't seem right, or as
> >useful. There is something visceral in actually seeing the cave
> >Alta Mira. I don't think I would get the same experience from the
> 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.
> >One thing that many countries do not understand, or fully appreciate, is
> >marketing potential of museum collections. Very few people just decide
to hop a
> >plane and fly to Greece to look at classical ruins. The pieces held by
> >act as a marketing tool. They wet your appetite for more. Remove all of
> >really "neat" artifacts and ship them home and you will probably see
> >tourists. Not only at the museum that would have to depend on only
> >material, but also in the country that has repatriated collections.
> The idea is not to simply strip out what is repatriated, but to replace
> it with well-made replicas.
> >There is also the conservation issue. Had Lord Elgin not brought the
> >frieze to the BM, it would probably have been lost. Up until recently
> >non-Northern European countries have been a bit careless with their
> >heritage. Yes an awful lot of the good stuff has ended up in museums in
> >and Europe. But if it hadn't ended up there, where would it be? I
> >much would have been destroyed.
> You are quite right, but that was then and this is now. A condition of
> repatriation must be that proper conservation is guaranteed.
> >There is also the issue of safety. As an American, it was much more
> >and less life threatening for me to look at Sumerian artifacts at the
> >Museum in Philadelphia. The Ishtar Gate is much more accessible in
> These are more accessible to you, but less accessible to the descendants
> of the builders.
> > It is rather unlikely that someone will machine gun a bus load of
> >tourists looking at the Egyptian temple at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
> >York, as has happened on more than a few occasions over the last few
> >Egypt. There are places that I would love to go some day, if I had the
> >and if folks like Bin Laden would stop considering me an aiming point.
> This is a universal problem, and not really relevant to the question of
> what should happen, if anything, to major artefacts far removed from
> their origin. Would you use that argument to justify moving a few
> Egyptian pyramids, or perhaps the Sphinx, to Arizona?
> >There are a lot more factors involved in this than the mere fact of
> I don't think anyone wants to over-simplify the subject, except those
> that point-blank refuse even to discuss it.
> Regards, John Woodgate, OOO - Own Opinions Only.
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