Sunday, 5 July 2009

Ridding the field of whistleblowers: "in your dreams"

Cultural Property Observer reports, apparently gleefully, that critic of no-questions-asked collecting policies Oscar White Muscarella curator of ancient art and archaeology of the Near East “has taken a recession driven voluntary retirement” from the New York’s Metropolitan Museum. He notes that due to his role as a whistle-blower:

If Muscarella had been in private industry, he would have been sacked long ago. However, in the not-for-profit world of the Met, he managed to hang on for 44 years...
Perhaps employees of one of New York's premier museums have a strong trades union behind them – or perhaps (unlike no-questions-asked collectors) the Metropolitan regards participation in public debate on ethics and the preservation of the cultural heritage part of a museum’s public role. This extraordinary ad hominem statement is however given significance in the context of the fact that, although he does not like us mentioning it, Peter Tompa is an employee of Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC, the core of whose activities concern providing legal representation in the areas of employee benefits law, employment law, and litigation. Frankly I am amazed that a lawyer in such a firm would be so glibly suggesting that whistleblowers can be summarily sacked. Somehow, apart from other factors, I do not think I'd be seeking his firm's help in any conflict with my current employer.

If the Metropolitan had threatened to sack Otto Muscarella after writing of the false provenance of Ziwiye ("Ziwiye" and Ziwiye. The Forgery of a Provenience, in: Journal of Field Archaeology 4, 1977), or the publication of his “The Lie Became Great” (2000), both about the no-questions-asked market in antiquities, would Bailey and Ehrenburg have refused to represent him? Just curious.

It is also interesting that Peter Tompa is among those who claim (falsely) that supporters of collecting of portable antiquities are somehow "black-balled" by the archaeological community (this is to expain away why so few voices are raised in the defence of the no-questions-asked market in the archaeological milieu which collectrs say are solidly behind them, it being just "a few radicals" [sic] that are not). Yet Tompa himself is obviously advocating archaeological black balling of heritage professionals who are anti-looting and confronting the issues caused by the no-questions-asked market. Where is the consistency in that standpoint?

How many more people critical of the no-questions-asked market would ACCG activists like Mr Tompa like to see "sacked" from their workplace, or perhaps in the case of younger academics prevented from being employed there at all?

I wish Dr Muscarella a long, happy and fruitful retirement and long may he continue to spread the word among the public about the damaging effects of the no-questions-asked market in decontextualised artefacts on the preservation and integrity of the world's archaeological record. That is what basically this is about, integrity and truth.

Photo: Oscar Muscarella (SAFE)

No comments:

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