Monday 20 February 2012

Fincham on Olympia Theft and Coiney Wrongheadedness

Derek Fincham has a comment on the Olympia theft which is worth highlighting:
Last week was a bad week for antiquities protection, as thefts of antiquities from both Montreal and Olympia in Greece were revealed. [...] Both instances are troubling examples of thieves overcoming museum security. But, to borrow a phrase from Prof. Merryman, no thinking person would use these thefts to argue that (1) Western museums should repatriate all their antiquities; or (2) Greece should sell its "surplus" antiquities to alleviate its culture funding difficulty. Both propositions are wrongheaded. They are a reason why cultural heritage policy has such difficulty getting off the ground, if the discourse can't even acknowledge and admonish thieves as thieves.
Well, it's not any "discourse", it is mainly just selfish US collectors and dealers that see opportunities to score points off the current misfortunes of the source countries. They will not admit that stolen artefacts are stolen and not theirs to own "by rights".

UPDATE 20.2.12
The point about the western museums was initially a bit unclear to me, Dr Fincham (pers. comm.) confirms that what he meant was: "I saw folks argue that the Montreal theft means western museums aren't safe places for antiquities either, the implicit argument being that they should all go back to their nation of origin. It misses the point. Theft is theft".

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