Friday, 6 November 2015

Legal Questions over the acquisitions by the Museum of the Bible were inevitable

Derek Fincham ('Legal Questions over the acquisitions by the Museum of the Bible were inevitable' Illicit Cultural Property November 5, 2015) argues that the future of the privately-owned 'Museum of the Bible' filled with 40000 brag-show trophy items may be about to put in serious jeopardy by the questions being raised about the origins of individual items:
The Museum of the Bible will sit very near the National Mall, an important national space where the Smithsonian, the National Gallery, the Air and Space Museum, and other museums sit. America has reserved this space as a place for museums, so the optics of having a new museum filled with tens of potentially looted artifacts should not be underestimated.
[Just down the road from the Department of State]. Speaking of the temporary seizure of some cuneiform tablets destined for the Green Collection, Fincham points out:
In many respects these problems were predictable and foreseeable. The age when you could spend freely on the international antiquities market are gone. Buyers must be more careful. Another consideration I suppose is whether it would have even been possible to put together a museum of the Bible if those questions were asked. Perhaps not.
There is no one way to create a "Museum of the Bible". I think it would be perfectly possible to create an exhibition using loaned material (which the MOTB is doing upstais anyway) simulacra (which the Green collection touring exhibitions already utilise) and multimedia (as the museums of Jewish history in Warsaw and Berlin for example use). In the latter the number of actual objects is deliberately kept low, but they are very carefully (not to sy insightfully) selected. The Greens went for numbers rather than the way a specific item can make a specific point. Why anyone setting up a museum to "tell the story of the Bible" needs hundreds of cunies is unclear. Ten in a case would be more than enough. The problem is that this accumulation of objects seems to have first started off as a private hoard, and the idea of "doing good" by running a museum was tacked on to that. Warsaw Museum are more than one way

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