Wednesday, 27 August 2008

A Threat of Turmoil unless...

Californian coin dealer Dave Welsh's latest "contribution" to international dialogue on portable antiquities collecting:
I really do not think that all of British archaeological thought has yet fully grasped the ethical implications of [the] demand that all antiquities must be fully provenanced before they may ethically be traded or collected. This is a very fundamental point, and it would be a serious error for British archaeologists to promulgate a "code of ethics" for collectors in which that demand is included as an ethical requirement, before the serious differences that presently exist have been fully discussed and resolved.
[...] When Barford and his fellow thinkers leave collectors in peace, you will be left in peace. Until that happens there will be turmoil. If you find that disagreeable, then I suggest that you give some thought to whether Mr. Barford is accomplishing anything constructive, or whether he is simply alienating and irritating collectors to the point that they are ready to take
concrete action to assert their rights.
Sounds to me like ACCG officer Mr Welsh is angling for British archaeologists, under threat of him and his fellow portable antquity collectors creating "turmoil" in their midst, to place a gag order on critics of portable antiquity collecting 'a la ACCG'.
What "rights" does the US collector actually have over the objects of cultural interest from other countries, such as Great Britain? Do these people imagine that their own personal rights completely override those of the citizens and state administration of those other countries? By what right does Mr Welsh think he can dictate to the British archaeological community what they should think, and threaten them if they don't change their minds about the ethics of collecting artefacts taken from their archaeological contexts? Let us see how well he has judged them and the depth of their obsession with "context". Of course they could just ignore his threats and treat the ill mannered transatlantic interloper with a polite but sardonic grin.

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