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Tiffany Jenkins on James Cuno

Tiffany Jenkins has written a review of James Cuno's Whose Culture? Neil MacGregor's contribution is described as "one of the book’s weakest chapters" that "charts a one-sided history of the British Museum which neglects its historical association with the state and in particular the British Empire".

I am not sure Jenkins has understood the complexity of the issues. She writes, "Italy not only keeps what is found in Italy, but prevents export of artefacts and pushes for artefacts found in Italy but held abroad to be returned". But why has Italy pressed for the return of well over 100 objects from a variety of university and civic museums as well as a dealer and a private collector? Surely it is to discourage the "no questions asked" acquisition policies that have allowed recently looted objects to enter public and private collections. [See my essay on "Nostoi".] Museums may well play an "invaluable role ... in the preservation, presentation and study of artefacts". But have some museum curators also turned a blind eye to the looting that was taking place to provide stunning acquisitions for their galleries?

Jenkins also overlooks the fact that some of the essays have been recycled and not updated in the light of the recent returns.


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