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AAMD and Antiquities: A Revised Position

On the 3 June 2008 the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) issued a new report on "Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art" (see AAMD Pressroom). This acknowledges the usefulness of the 1970 UNESCO Convention (as I have argued) as "the most pertinent threshold date for the application of more rigorous standards to the acquisition of archaeological material and ancient art". Michael Comforti, the incoming president of AAMD, is also quoted:
We also believe it is important to go beyond the letter of the law in considering the acquisition of antiquities and ancient art and that the acquisition of these works must be responsible and ethical as well as legal.
The whole tone of the report is conciliatory and there is talk of co-operation with archaeological organisations.

There are a couple of outstanding matters.
  1. There are concerns about the place of long-term loans (see "Loans of Archaeological Material"). I have a particular interest in the long-term loan of a monumental bronze krater (of Trebenishte type) to Houston Museum of Fine Arts ("A Bronze Krater in the Levy-White Collection"; "A Bronze Krater on Loan to Houston").
  2. Where does this leave the Cleveland Museum of Art as a member of AAMD? Will there be a resolution over the contested antiquities in the near future?
I also disagree with the wording "illicit and unscientific excavation" in the AAMD report. Looting is not "excavation".

In general I think the AAMD should be congratulated for moving in the right direction. But will member institutions adopt this report as the basis for their acquisition policy? That is the more important issue.

Comments

David Gill said…
See the report in the New York Times. It reports:

Michael Conforti, the new president of the directors’ association, said the new policy — which is not legally binding on the member museums, though he predicted that all of them would abide by it — would send a powerful signal to the antiquities market.

“If there are those out there who see this as just some kind of veiled license to collect, then they’re going to have to explain that to me,” he said. “I think this is a more than honorable stance, and one that will actually help the archaeological field.”

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