Thursday, April 2, 2015

"Owning stolen stuff is not part of our mission"

I applaud the Stephan Jost, Director of the Honolulu Museum of Art, for his comments about the voluntary return of antiquities to India (Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, "Antiquities looted from India end up at Honolulu museum", Denver Post April 2, 2015). The items have been linked to Subhash Kapoor.

Jost added: "I'm not sure we've done anything heroic. We just want to do the right thing."

The article cites James Cuno:
It's very rare for evidence to come to light to show a museum has items that were illegally obtained, said James Cuno, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust. 
"Claims might come from time to time. But most often those claims are based on just interest or the construction of national identity," he said. "If evidence is provided that's convincing, no museum will resist."
Perhaps the Director of the St Louis Art Museum could read this story and "do the right thing" and return the Ka-Nefer-Nefer mummy mask.

Perhaps the present proprietor of the Icklingham Bronzes could read this story and "do the right thing" and return the Roman objects to the UK.

Perhaps the curator at Fordham would like to return the bronze Caracalla from Bubon to Turkey?

Perhaps the New York owner of the Koreschnica krater would like to return it to FYROM? (And perhaps also the North American university museum that acquired some of the other burial goods.)

And the list could go on.

What we are seeing is a professional response to the shame of the Indian antiquities scandal.

And could the AAMD add "Owning stolen stuff is not part of our mission" to its policy on acquiring archaeological material? It might just help curatorial staff to remember.

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1 comment:


I agree with what you have written but the message of some of the leading museum directors in the Western world has gone on for so long that it would take an incredible length of time to convince many museums directors and museum workers that it is wrong to keep objects have been stolen or have been illegally acquired. Many persons in the West have been made to believe that what is wrong or right has no place in the discussions on antiquities. Just doing the right thing would help to solve many problems but many refuse to pose the question.


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