Sunday, 24 July 2016

Paperless Antiquities Being Sold by University Collector

Where were these artefacts
housed before the sale?
Edgar Owen has a large private collection for sale on consignment. The first batch comprises 750 antiquities mostly of European, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Egyptian origin which he's hoping to shift wholesale. There are few central and eastern Asian objects, none from American of subtropical African cultures: 
The University Collection  is an excellent large and diverse collection of Greek, Roman and Near Eastern antiquities I need to move quickly at wholesale for a consignor. Preferably for sale as an entire collection[...] There are ~750 pieces almost all different and all guaranteed genuine. Excellent provenance. The collection belongs to a retired university Vice President and author of over 100 papers including some on antiquities and ancient technology. Collected over many years up until the 1980's. All purchased from US dealers. 
It seems that a variant form of the "collecting history" is given on a discussion list:
The collection belongs to a retired university Vice President and has excellent provenance. Collected over many years up until about 20 years ago by a University Vice President and author of over 100 papers including some on antiquities and ancient technology. All purchased from US dealers. 
until 20 years ago is not "1980s", and the UNESCO Convention was 1970 anyway. The use of the present tense indicates that this collector is still alive. Former vice president of a university somewhere in the USA (presumably), author of 100 papers including "antiquities" and ancient technology...  Since this would not be all that difficult to work out, one wonders what the seller has to hide by not identifying himself as the authority behind the claims to both legitimacy and authenticity. Such claims ring awfully hollow in the absence of the name. This is offered as "A University Collection" - which university is referred to here as legitimation? Was the university asked to lend its name to this enterprise and refused? Were the artefacts housed on university premises? The university in question should be informed that its reputation is being used in this manner.

Should academics engage in the private purchase and collecting of antiquities? What ethical codes and constraints affect this? For example to buy paperless antiquities loose on the "they-can-touch-you-for-it" market? Or worse, to buy antiquities with papers and then separate the objects from the legitimating documentation (for example discarding it)?

It is interesting to note that this scholar did not bequeath his antiquities collection to the university as was the case with other academics who collected such things such as Professor David Moore Robinson at the University of Mississippi. Why not? Why is this being marketed as "the University Collection" when it has not come from, nor is going to, a university? 

This collection includes many objects of a type that would have needed an export licence to leave the source country before 1996. There are cunies for example (untranscribed), a cylinder seal or two. Yet in none of the descriptions I looked at was there any mention of the export documentation being available for the new owner. Seven hundred and fifty loose paperless objects is no bargain at any price and no matter "who" had bought them in the past. 

One wonders whether the university that appointed this guy knew he was collecting paperless antiquities from all corners of the classical world with the attendant risk that a university official might be buying antiquities of less-than-legal origins. Or did the anonymous collector keep the university in the dark about his activities on the US antiquities market? Full transparency requires Mr Owen to at least name that university.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.