Thursday, 4 December 2008

Collectors as Scholars?

I found Nathan Elkins' recent blog post "
Ulterior Motives in Discussion of Looting Issues?" particularly interesting and well-argued. It is a riposte to points frequently made by the US collecting lobby which basically argue that curtailing a no-questions-asked market would in some way be deleterious to scholarship because portable antiquity collectors are independent scholars. They argue that calls for a more open and ethical trade are in some way aimed at stopping independent scholarship. I think Elkins efectively shows how nonsensical such claims are. In any case I think it far from demonstrated that all consumers of hundreds of thousands of looted and smuggled ancient coins from the Balkans or metal detected finds from France and England are engaged in any form of scholarship. They are dealers and collectors.

I was also interested in contrasting the arguments proffered by the US lobby with those of UK antiquity collectors. I cannot recall ever hearing a discussion of the unfairness of unaffiliated artefact collectors not being able to access the JSTOR academic library resources on a British metal detecting forum. Still, now they are partners, perhaps the Portable Antiquities Scheme can organize it for British metal detectorists?

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