Thursday, July 24, 2008

Collecting Histories Matter

I am not sure that the due diligence process is working when it comes to the acquisition of antiquities. Museums, private collectors and dealers can buy objects "in good faith" only to find the newly purchased piece is disputed. It is even possible that the piece has been checked against a list of items known to have been stolen from recorded collections. But something straight out of the ground will not be featured.

So how do we move forward? A study of the recent returns to Italy (and to a lesser extent Greece) has begun to show a pattern of names. And the willingness of institutions such as the MFA in Boston and the J. Paul Getty Museum to provide such information demonstrates the new spirit of curatorial co-operation that is needed to address the problem of recently looted antiquities that enter the marketplace.

Do we need to see a more rigorous form of the due diligence process taking place? Do histories need to be presented in such a way that dates of surfacing or gaps in the record can be seen and explained?

The answer has to be yes.

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