Thursday, June 26, 2008

Towards a Ceasefire in the "Antiquities Wars": A Response to Lee Rosenbaum

Lee Rosenbaum has proposed a way ahead in the light of the AAMD's announcement that it will adopt 1970 as the cut off point for the acquisition of antiquities ("Towards a Ceasefire in the Antiquities Wars: The Next Step (Part I)"). She poses the question:
Now AAMD needs to tackle the hard part: What should its member museums do about all those objects they already own that wouldn't have entered their collections had the new standard been applied at the time of their acquisition?

Of course some of these objects, such as those in the Cleveland Museum of Art, are the subject of negotiations with Italy. And the recent returns of classical antiquities have largely involved Italy. What about the series of photographs in the hands of the Greek authorities that appear to be as damning as the Polaroids seized in the Geneva Freeport? And what about claims from Turkey? The Republic of Macedonia (FYRM)?

So if AAMD members think that the first wave of returning antiquities is the last they are very much mistaken. (And remember that the returns to Italy only represent some 1% of the antiquities shown in the Geneva Polaroids.)

Rosenbaum proposes using 1983 as the cut-off date but I do not believe this will work. Italy has effectively been using 1970 (and the UNESCO Convention) as its cut-off point. If it had used 1983 then the Sarpedon krater would still be in New York. But 1983 (and indeed 1970) would overlook national laws, which is why Turkey was able to obtain the return of the "Lydian Hoard" from New York.

1970 is the most obvious date to use. AAMD members still need to demonstrate that they are willing to co-operate with any requests to hand over demonstrably looted antiquities. And this is not just about acquisitions but about long-term loans from private collectoras.

1 comment:

Cultural Property Observer said...

David-

Please see my comments at:

http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2008/06/memo-to-aamd-members-pick-1970-or-1983.htm

Sincerely,

Peter Tompa

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