Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What are "redundant antiquities"?

The AAMD written testimony to the CPAC review of Article II of the MOU with Italy is now available [pdf]. The submission by Kaywin Feldman, Director and President of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, is one of the pieces made available (dated, November 13, 2009). Feldman took a critical position against the Italian authorities. (Members of the AAMD need to remember that several of their institutions had been happily buying, no doubt in "good faith", recently surfaced antiquities ripped from archaeological contexts in Italy.)

Feldman appears to misunderstand archaeological material when she wrote:
The spirit of support and cooperation emphasized in the MOU would be much better served if American museums could acquire redundant antiquities and borrow objects for long-term loan from Italian museums. AAMD believes that the United States government should encourage developed countries, such as Italy, to make redundant antiquities available to the legitimate market as a way to curtail looting.
What are these "redundant antiquities"?

The phrase seems to be traced back to William G. Pearlstein, "Claims for the Repatriation of Cultural Property: Prospects for a Managed Antiquities Market",  Law and Policy in International Business, Vol. 28 (1996). Pearlstein, who also gave a presentation at the MOU review, wrote:
Nevertheless, the cumulative effect of the patrimony claims has been to chill the overall appetite of U.S. market participants for new acquisitions to the point that, unless the present trend is reversed, the long term viability of the U.S. antiquities market may be in doubt. This chilling effect extends not only to the high-end of the antiquities market, where the market value of an acquisition can justify the legal costs of a patrimony claim, but to the great majority of redundant antiquities that lack special archeological, historical, or cultural significance to any particular source nation.
What did Pearlstein have in mind? And what does Feldman consider to be in this category?

Are they suggesting breaking up tomb-groups in the reserves of Italian museums to sell on some notional licit market? What will be the implications for future studies of this archaeological material?

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