Skip to main content

"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.


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

DR.KWAME OPOKU said…
David,
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.
Kwame.

Popular posts from this blog

The scale of the returns to Italy

I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.

Stele returns to Greece

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.



Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …