Should the museum disclose the collecting history?
I would suggest that the answer is yes. Why?
- In February 2006 the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) released "New Guidelines on Loans of Antiquities and Ancient Art" (also cited as a report on "Incoming Loans of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art"). As part of the process of considering a loan of archaeological material "museums should (emphasis mine) inquire into their provenance history, seeking to obtain all relevant information from the lender, and an appropriate warranty of their legal ownership of the work" (II.C). (See "Loans of Archaeological Material").
- Loans to public institutions should be transparent. (See "Loan Exhibitions and Transparency")
- Long-term loans "with incomplete relevant provenance histories should be evaluated under criteria comparable to those for acquisitions" (AAMD "New Guidelines on Loans of Antiquities and Ancient Art"). (The curatorial staff tell me that the krater has been in Houston for four years.)
- Shelby White had to return ten of her antiquities to Italy in January 2008. (The list has not yet been released and that indicates an unwillingness to release key information.)
- On Shelby White's death, Romano-British bronzes ("The Icklingham Bronzes") in her collection will apparently be bequeathed to the British Museum.
- Research by Christopher Chippindale and myself (and published in the American Journal of Archaeology) suggested that 93% of the antiquities in the Shelby White & Leon Levy exhibition "Glories of the Past" had no stated find-spot.
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