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Ethics and Partage

Richard Lacayo has followed up his interview with James Cuno. This time he talks to Alex Barker, director of the Museum of Art & Archeology at the University of Missouri-Columbia and chair of the Ethics Committee of the Society for American Archeology ("A Talk With: Alex Barker", Time, February 4, 2008).

The agenda remains that set by Cuno, namely that of partage. Sharing finds from excavations is one possible way forward. Loans are another way as recently explained by Thomas Noble Howe, "A New Way Forward for U.S. Museums".

Lacayo and Barker also discuss John Merryman's proposal for a "licit" trade in antiquities. It is a question I posed last August. Barker gives a rather abbreviated reply. I had earlier commented on Merryman's flawed model for the "licit" trade where he gave the Getty as a good example of a museum following correct "due diligence" procedures. And given recent events we now know that trust was misplaced.

I would have liked the interview to have picked up on Cuno's suggestion about reasonable acquisition policies for museums.

For more on this topic see the Society for American Archaeology's Ethical Issues in Archaeology (AltaMira 2003). Barker has a chapter, "Archaeological Ethics: Museums and Collections".

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