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Ethical Collectors

I was very impressed with yesterday's presentation on Ethical Collectors by Cinnamon Stephens at Queen Mary's. It made me revisit some of my research on European and North American private collectors, and to think how some of them could have avoided acquiring toxic antiquities.

Stephens reminded us that private collectors need to understand the "red flags" in their area of collecting. This will help them to avoid 'dodgy' material. They also need to seek professional advice from academics. However we see that in the elaborate catalogues that accompanied the objects that formed part of the study I conducted with Christopher Chippindale.

I suppose the main pieces of advice for collectors are as follows:

  • check the collecting history for the object you are wanting to buy. Is the paperwork authenticated? Is there a clear paper trail?
  • can the collecting history be traced back for certain to the period prior to 1970? 
  • be prepared to walk away from an object even if it is the one that will 'crown' your collection. It could be the piece that damages your personal reputation.
  • document your acquisition: its purchase, restoration, display, or loan. This will be important should you wish to lend to a museum.

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heritageaction said…
It seems to me that academics concerned about ethical collecting are forever playing away fixtures, i.e. bemoaning the shortcomings of collecting codes formulated by collectors' trade bodies. Years ago I had the temerity to propose an Ethical Purchasers of British Portable Antiquities organisation together with a Code for members. It has perished through lack of response (although the CBA did say on Britarch it was a good idea). A similar code, unilaterally published by concerned academics and widely subscribed to would provide an excellent home fixture.

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