Monday, November 26, 2007

Modern-day Maecenases or robber barons?

Stephen L. Dyson is a leading authority on the history of classical archaeology. His review of The Medici Conspiracy (2006) is thus a significant one (Journal of Hellenic Studies 127 (2007) 234-35). Perhaps what marks out his review is this extended observation:
a counter-offensive is already under way in centres of museum power, especially in the United States. It is being led by powerful and largely unrepentant museums, supported by compliant journalists and academics, and ultimately financed by wealthy collectors who want to see themselves once again depicted as modern-day Maecenases and not as contemporary robber barons. Their justifications rest on the latest version of cultural imperialism, now bearing labels like 'cosmopolitanism' by which the dominant political, military and economic power claims that it embodies civilization and asserts the right to gather unto itself the looted treasures of the world.

There is more in the review but it is a good reminder of the road that lies ahead.

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