Friday, 6 June 2008

University Art Museums and Collecting Antiquities

I have already commented on Kimerly Rorschach's views on the policies of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD). She has written in more detail about the role of university art museums:
We believe that classical antiquities have tremendous educational and aesthetic value, even when removed from their original context and even when their original context is unknown.
At the same time she acknowledges the issue of looted antiquities and notes that university museum curators
must take account of the interests of our colleagues in other scholarly fields, especially since our teaching mission as university museums relies on the ability and willingness of faculty and students in these fields to work with the objects we collect.
I take heart from the fact that she has doubts about the AAMD's report on the "Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art" (see "Loan Exhibitions and Transparency") and the proposed "ten-year rule" (as opposed to accepting the UNESCO 1970 Convention as the cut-off point; see "Cultural Ceasefire: is 1970 the right date?"). She sounds a warning note:
To base our policies on these current AAMD guidelines creates too much risk and too much exposure for both the university museum and the parent institution.
The returns of antiquities from Princeton University Art Museum and the University of Virginia Art Museum in Charlottesville have highlighted these very issues concerning both loans and acquisitions.

Rorschach is also perceptive. She closes with these words:
To disregard the cultural patrimony concerns of other countries, whether or not we share them, only compounds ill will toward the United States. For university museums especially, it seems clear to me that collecting undocumented antiquities at the present time cannot be condoned.

Rorschach, K. 2007. "Scylla or Charybdis: antiquities collecting by university art museums." In The acquisition and exhibition of classical antiquities: professional, legal, and ethical perspectives, edited by R. F. Rhodes, pp. 65-73. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press.

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