Sunday, 31 August 2008

Attacking the Kaimsthorn Bogeyman

We may observe that the pro-collecting lobby have a tendency to prefer simplistic arguments and create straw man arguments which they demolish with glibness and glee. They are happiest picking on a participant in the debate about collecting, demonising them and pouring scorn and hatred on them in the manner the Two Minute Hate of Orwell's distopian '1984.

One of the bogeymen of US collectors for some reason is Lord Professor Colin Renfrew, humanist, scholar, pioneering theoretician, one time Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge. This means little to collectors. Renfrew is reviled among them for the forthright way he has since the early 1970s and particularly from the 1990s onwards spoken out against (among other things) the illicit trade in portable antiquities, the thought-provoking texts he has written on the subject and his activities to promote the development of legislation to regulate this problem. What for the conservation conscious among us would be laudable clearly makes collectors uncomfortable.

A few days ago what was meant (I think) to be a critique of Renfrew's ideas (entitled "Problems with Renfrew") was going the rounds of collectors' forums and was even cross-posted on two archaeology forums. It was signed by Professor T.V. Buttrey from the Coin Department of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. It concentrates on a very narrow (coin-centred) interpretation of the context of Renfrew's position and that of the conservation lobby he represents. Although some collectors enthusiastically received it, the text was largely disregarded, mainly one suspects because of its character. A colleague has characterised it as "most offensive and unnecessary too, and possibly libellous". I agree. One gets the impression that this text reflects some Cambridge infighting and academic cattiness and personal jealousies rather than being a fair discussion of the views which Renfrew espouses. Certainly it contains a number of factual errors.

1 comment:

Phil Davis said...

Hi Paul-- This is just a test. Please moderate it into nonexistence.

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