Thursday 27 May 2010

UK Responsible Collecting and the US "Collectors' Rights" Smokescreen

I have mentioned ancient lamp collector David Knell's 'Ancient heritage' Blog here before; I now recommend taking another look at it now he has a few more posts up. There are some thought-provoking comments there from a truly Responsible collector, a rare bird in the blogosphere. I hope he will be making more such posts there soon.

The structure of the document of his views is quite interesting.

Minor antiquities: the importance of keeping records (14 Feb 2009) This attracted two comments to which Knell replies.

False dichotomy: you're either with us or against us (18 Feb 2009) That phrase "you're either with us or against us", [...] always seemed to me to have overtones of the playground bully’s "you’re either part of my gang or you’re the enemy" mentality. It makes good rhetoric but its basic fallacy is soon revealed under close analysis. In reality there is nearly always a middle ground.

This attracted 2 comments, one (critical) from Peter Tompa just nine hours after it was posted (discussed in the post below this one) and one from Tarquin.

Ratiaria Appeal (2 Aug 2009) About the appeal to help stop looting of this important site from which so many artefacts recently on the market have clearly come. This attracted 0 comments.

Then there was a draft proposal for an International Antiquities Registry (IAR) (23 September 2009) No comments were received on this.

Heritage destroyed - and a missed opportunity (2 October 2009), The destruction of the ancient heritage of Bulgaria is a tragedy not only for Bulgarians but for all mankind.

Concerned collectors – just a tiny voice in the wilderness? (8th October 2009)
Well, my draft proposal for an International Antiquities Registry went down like a lead balloon on the forum I posted it to. It seems there is no real wish to consider such a scheme... [...] some American coin dealers (who represent a large proportion of the trade in antiquities) have indeed organised a lobby which actively campaigns not to upset the status quo. Concerned collectors, on the other hand, have no lobby and no organisation. It is true of course that dealers rely on collectors for their livelihood. But until concerned collectors become a large and organised group with a united front many in the trade will continue to ignore them.
Then there was "Reaching out?"(23 may 2010) "I very briefly submitted a blog post about the polarised camps in the debate on looting back in February 2009. I removed it and stored it as a draft only a few hours later because I realised I would be too busy on other projects at that time to reply to any comments. I now have a little more time and I have re-posted it (this was "False Dichotomy")". In this post answering Peter Tompa's comments to the earlier post, he deals with the four "proposals" made by the ACCG to "deal with looting" with admirable succinctness, concluding "they are not going to fly" and suggesting that the reason why the US coin dealers' "outeach" attempting to influence the rest of the world is not met with enthusiasm is because these "proposals" are a smokescreen for not doing what needs to be done.

The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) and Archaeologists (23 May 2010) "What is it with the ACCG obsession with archaeologists [...] (see my previous Reaching out?)? The archaeologists and other preservationists saw the real audience years ago and vaulted over the dealers straight to them before the ACCG was even founded. To mimic Clinton's election mantra: it's the public, stupid!".

Knell, who lives in England where the PAS is doing outreach in favour of responsible collecting and artefact hunting, has obviously thought deeply about these issues and reached his conclusions independently. I think we can see here that not all collectors are misled by the smokescreen set up by a vociferous group of US ancient dugup coin dealers intent on maintaining the damaging indiscriminate market for antiquities in the US for as long as possible. Knell here makes the point very clearly that this stance is not to the advantage of collectors, is damaging to the archaeological heritage, nor does it serve the general public. In my opinion, he is 100% right in all of those things. The ACCG presents itself as fighting for "collectors' rights", but it seems that in fact what they are fighting to preserve is merely a damaging business model which is not for the long term benefit of anyone except antiquity dealers and profiteers.

Keep it up please Mr Knell, don't let the oafs promoting irresponsible antiquity trading and collecting bully you into submission to their nineteenth century colonialist attitudes masqueradinbg as "internationalism".

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