Monday 17 June 2013

Lord, Is that so?

Lord Renfrew has written a piece for SAFE (here) in which he says, among other things:
It is difficult to prevent the looting of the cultural heritage in faraway places. But you can help prevent looting, and undermine the traffic in illicit antiquities, by ensuring that your local museum (and local private collectors) have a clear and published ethical acquisitions code — and that they stick to it! If museums did not buy or accept gifts of “unprovenanced” — i.e. usually looted — antiquities, collectors would not buy them.

Is that actually true? Has Lord Renfrew spent much time recently on the antiquities collectors' forums? This is basically the same tenor of argument that he was advancing back in "Loot, Legitimacy and Ownership: The Ethical Crisis in Archaeology" (2000), has nothing changed in the intervening decade and a half?

It seems to me an odd thing to say. About the only real effect museums ethics have on collectors is on the US ones who cannot get a tax kickback on objects they donate to museums if the museums refuse to accept them. That, I think, is the real extent of the model Lord Renfrew would like us to believe. Personally I think the evidence points the other way, the more museums refuse to touch dodgy and unpapered stuff, the more private collectors will be enjoined to by profit-seeking dealers and their middlemen suppliers.

Vignette: Lord Colin Renfrew


kyri said...

"collectors would not buy them" in a nutshell,no that is not true.there are many collectors who would buy.

Paul Barford said...

Would and DO.

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