Tuesday 6 December 2011

AIA Commands American Museums to "Stop Collecting"?

A fundamental element of the dogmas and mantras of US no-questions-asked collecting of dugup artefacts is that archaeologists (except the ones who themselves collect) are bad guys who are rabidly opposed to collecting. In an institutionalised form, this is expressed in the alleged anti-collecting ideology of the Archaeological Institute of America. It is necessary for the no-questions-asked dealers and their lobbyists to create an "Other" as a scapegoat and an object of hate in order to create internal unity within the group, and this is the role fulfilled by the caricature image of the "anti-collecting archaeologists" in the process of programmatic misinformation by the dugup dealers' lobbyists.

It is no matter that there is not a single statement on the AIA website supporting the interpretation that the AIA is out to abolish all private collecting of archaeological artefacts. I've analysed them exhaustively and one (one) collector was convinced of that fact. The rest of them however could not care less what the truth is, like sheep they'll happily believe whatever nonsense the dealers and their lobbyists want to force upon them, and obviously are not going to look for themselves. Presumably they think the absence of any indications of the AIA's (alleged) "real" aims in the material it produces are all part of the great Satanic Conspiracy of the "Elders of Archaeon" against collectors.

Coiney Conspiracy Theorist Number One, the paid lobbyist of the numismatic associations, has dug up new "evidence" to support his theory. It comes from an article published in "Cleveland.com" which as Larry Rothfield correctly observed long before Peter Tompa noticed the text "takes a rather parochial view of the issues based on the Cleveland Museum's insistence that it will continue to buy antiquities". In passing in his comments in a session at the meeting: “Saving Cultural Heritage in Crisis Areas”, Rose said that current changes in the context of the acquisition of museum objects, and the ongoing processes of repatriation of items from US museums which apparently left source countries in a less-than-legal manner, means that "he felt the era in which American museums can collect antiquities is coming to a close". Not least is the fact that through negligence of previous owners and dealers, most of the antiquities currently on the market have not collecting histories adequate enough to meet the now much-more-stringent criteria for ethical acquisition that US museums now apply (in response to the crisis brought about by them having allowed too much obviously-looted material into their collections). I think, given some of the news emerging from the US museum world in recent months, his comments of course could equally be applied to paintings and manuscripts and not just ancient dug up artefacts (so-called "ancient art").

With a gleam in his eye, cat-like, Tompa jumps on this, and deftly twists it round:
Brian Rose, the AIA's immediate past president, has been quoted as telling America's museums to stop collecting antiquities. [...] Despite such quotes, archaeo-blogger Paul Barford continues to claim that the AIA is really not against collecting.
This really is an incredibly blatant non-sequitur. Pointing out that something may in future be less easy for museums than it was in the past is not the same as commanding them to stop doing that thing. It will be noted that - in order to find tenuous support for his allegations - the lobbyist snipes at an English blogger working in Europe about AIA policy (on the basis of a biased report on a US website about a meeting that took place in Rome), instead of contacting the AIA or Dr Rose (whose reported 'feeling' he would no doubt confirm is a private opinion). Will the coiney trade associations' lobbyist "Cultural property Observer" be seeking clarification of his position from Dr Rose? I doubt it, after all this is not about the truth is it?

Despite the fact that the comment abstracted from its context (coin collectors are happy to study things abstracted from their context) is not evidence of an otherwise secret conspiratorial policy known only to a few adepts from the higher circles of the AIA and Peter Tompa, this does not stop the coineys from drawing conclusions. This is how one of the ACCG dealers reacted to the "revelation":
The AIA really is dead-set against private collecting. It instead wants all "archaeological artifacts" including minor antiquities such as ancient coins to be locked up in institutions and warehouses where they will never again
be touched by the public, and can only be studied by archaeologists and artifact studies specialists who serve archaeologists.
This is beginning to look like a cult. The affirmation of faith: "The AIA really is dead-set against private collecting (it will not admit it, but we know better don't we brothers?)". The claim that the "Other" is an arcane elitist organization ("where they will never again be touched by the public") which therefore must be opposed by all means, fair or foul. As in militant "metal detecting" circles in the UK, the opposition has started in coiney circles in the US:
The AIA is completely out of step with public opinion. It has alienated US collectors to the point where these once enthusiastic supporters of archaeology have come to think that archaeology has grown into such a malignant cancer upon society that they have consequently not only stopped supporting it, they refuse to allow their children to study archaeology, they are looking for ways and means to stop all public funding of archaeology, and they are seeking ways to reform the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center to end its slavish affiliation with the AIA.
Archaeology has grown to be a "malignant cancer" which must be stopped? Collectors affiliated to the ACCG and its lobbyists are praying for someone to put a stop the cultural heritage protection establishment in Yurope, it is stated that they are turning their children against the discipline (does that apply too to the "ANCIENT COINS FOR EDUCATION" (sic) program (sic) which Dave Welsh's ACCG so avidly supports?), now we hear that US collectors "looking for ways and means to stop all public funding of archaeology". Why? Because archaeologists are among those who signal that the archaeological record is severely threatened by the ongoing commercial and erosive exploitation to fuel the no-questions-asked market for collectables? Because the US promulgated a law back in 1983 the application of which is now causing problems to those who want to import ancient artefacts from source countries without having the bother of documenting how they got to the US? This is beyond silly, this is simply cretinous.

If there is a legitimate trade in ancient artefacts (and I am constantly told by those engaged in it that there is), then why is there such rabid resistance to the requirement (a LEGAL requirement in the US) that part (just part) of the trade is indeed being carried out licitly in accordance with the international convention to which the US willingly became a state party back in the early 1980s? If "US collectors" cannot abide and are so unwilling to abide by those rules, then let them lobby Congress for the US to withdraw from that Convention. Then we will see whose side US and world "public opinion" is on.

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