Friday, March 19, 2010
"Ownership is a means of stewardship"
Patty Gerstenblith and James Cuno have been discussing the issues surrounding the return of antiquities ("The finder's keepers argument for antiquities", Minnesota Public Radio March 19, 2010). Much of the discussion was on objects that left their place of origin several centuries ago: the Parthenon marbles and the Rosetta stone. Cuno emphasised the role of the universal museum: "the world comes to London".
The discussion eventually got round to the contemporary issue of looting. The discussion of why so many major North American museums had returned objects to Italy and Greece was neatly side-stepped. Cuno made the point that few museums in North America would now buy antiquities that had surfaced on the market without appropriate documentation. ("if we can’t be confident … we don’t acquire it"). Gertsenblith made a comment about private collectors acquiring these same objects on the market and asked if museums were as rigorous over such donations.