Tuesday 27 April 2010

Taking the Fight "to The Other Guy's Turf"?

Vaseline supplier to the ACCG Richard Giedroyc makes some astonishing claims in Coin News this week (" ACCG Addresses Antiquities Group ). Apparently there is an "ongoing effort to protect coin collectors and museums in which coins are stored from being forced to give up these items to foreign governments under the premise the coins are the cultural patrimony of the claimant nation". Shockingly: "there are organized archaeological groups" (so a sort of archaeological mafia I guess) "that are against the private ownership of all such items, supporting the concept all antiquities including coins should be returned to their place of origin or discovery, but to date the United States has yet to become a signatory to any agreement that would destine many coins now in private hands to be returned to such countries as China, Cyprus, Italy, Greece, and Turkey that have actively made such demands" (Phew, eh?). What an odd thing to say, when all these countries require is that objects are legally exported. Giedroyć omits Egypt which unlike the countries he names really does want (almost) "everything" back. I guess scare-mongering is in the blood of coin dealers these days and a disregard for the truth of the matter too, never mind, no ancient coin-collector reading that will challenge the statement.

Giedroyc soothes that the "museums and collections" have a protector. It is the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild which "has become a driving force in the ongoing effort" (yaaaay!).

Giedryć says that the presentation of the paper "Coin Collectors and Cultural Property Nationalism" at the Portable Antiquities: Archaeology, Collecting, Metal Detecting conference in Newcastle upon Tyne was done in order to take the fight to the “other guy’s” turf" (the CBA and University of Newcastle are the "Antiquities Group" mentioned in the title of the piece I presume).
The big question now is if the groups opposing private ownership of antiquities who were at the conference took the ACCG paper seriously enough to consider its recommendations.
Certainly if Welsh and Sayles of the ACCG were expecting to have been taken seriously at this British meeting, they should have thought harder about the format of the text they prepared and its message to the intended audience. This turgid Americocentric anti-CPIA rant really cannot have been calculated to interest a single British artefact hunter or any of their British archaeological "partners". In particular US claims to bits of everybody else's heritage jangled with the ideology of British artefact hunting which is that what is being "recovered" is "Our Heritage" - so no less "nationalistic' in its fundamental principles than what the ACCG is criticising (indeed many artefact hunters turn out to be fiercely nationalistic in their outlook and politics, not a few of them on the forums give the impression of being fully paid up members of the BNP). Likewise while the text opposes nations instilling export controls over antiquities, there is not a single argument there which addresses the issue that Great Britain has export licence controls just the same as any of the other source countries which "internationalists" Sayles and Welsh say should have none (to facilitate free flow of artefacts onto the US market). Sayles did not address the question of why Britain should abandon this requirement for finders of archaeological artefacts wishing to sell them abroad. Likewise the paper wholly skips the implications for its general thesis of the question of the difference between English and Scottish law, which is odd because it speaks of the "UK approach" as a model the US and other countries should follow.
Vignette: Collectable cowboy, a Louis Marx figure.

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