Monday 29 June 2009

Working With and not Demonising the Market in Portable Antiquities?

There is a remark on the Yahoo Ancient Artifacts forum that is worth a brief comment. The author of the post, a collector mentioned in these pages earlier, says that collectors of portable antiquities can all agree that an attempt should be made to stop the on-going destruction of archaeological sites by looting to supply the antiquities market.

"the question is what the effective means to achieve it are. To demonize collectors of antiquities does not work I think, even though clearly the antiquities market is part of the problem. [...] But as the antiquities market is not going to disappear any time soon the solution must be to work with the market instead of against it".
I ask why, instead of the other way round, "the market" cannot work with the preservationists, governments and museums. Why is it that collectors and dealers always expect everybody else to accept their no-questions-asked approach and compromise, when it is the compromise itself that is allowing the damage to continue? Time and time again we see from collectors the attitude that if the preservationists, if governments, want things to change in the antiquities market, then it is up to the preservationists and governments to present a solution to the collectors on a plate (like setting up recording systems and financial incentives). The proviso is that these solutions cannot involve the dealer or collector is any additional effort or resposibilities, and must allow the continuance of the current status quo in the market. Forums like Unidroit-L and Ancient Artifacts are full of such demands made by collectors. I have commented on some of them here.

The attitudes of the naysayers of the no-questions-asked advocacy need no demonisation from me, they only need to be pointed out and their loud demands and denials speak for themselves, it is they that form the public image of "collectors of portable aniquities". If other more ethical collectors are unhappy about the image they create, they need to speak out more against the naysaying troublemakers in their midst. Nobody can discuss their views if they stay silent.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"to present a solution to the collectors on a plate (like setting up recording systems..."

Please, no more recording systems on the PAS model! As of right now, by our reckoning, 3,645,981 recordable artefacts have been removed from Britain's archaeological record since PAS was set up and well over 3 million of them weren't shown to PAS!

Providing State financed veils of respectability for the ethically-challenged merely facilitates a continuation of unethical behaviour it seems. The clear lesson provided by PAS is that it would be better to encourage self-regulation to achieve ethicality and, if that fails, work towards imposing it by law.

It is hardly tyranny, just a legal requirement for a piece of paper to accompany each sale, much like with cars! Beware opposition to such a proposal, there has to be a hidden reason.

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