Friday 21 February 2014

"Complacency, Arrogance and Contempt in a Trade That Seems Determined to Self-destruct"

I see David Knell (English-Canadian art historian based in the UK, furniture historian and lamp collector) has joined the debate on the recent uninformed attack on the credibility of archaeology by lobbyist and lawyer Peter Tompa. He continues the theme in another post on his well-informed "Ancient Heritage" blog (Thursday, 20 February 2014. 'Complacency, Arrogance and Contempt'). Knell observes that his comments to this text were "met with ill-informed and tangential responses" from Peter Tompa and his mates. In addition, he notes: "although the [CPO] blog frequently attacks and attempts to discredit archaeology, the replies to my comments strongly suggested that the blogger has no idea what archaeology actually is (clue: it's the whole site, not just objects)".  Knell commented on Tompa's efforts to the effect:
Rather than sniping at archaeologists who want to prevent looting, the coin collector's energy would be better spent on nagging dealers to provide proper collecting histories for the things he bought.
Which obviously was not to the liking of the lobbyist for the dugup coin trade . What would his paymasters say to that being on the blog of their paid lobbyist? Result?
My comments spawned a subsequent blog post by Peter Tompa on what it means to be an "ethical collector". He set up a false hypothesis that a collection can only be ethical if it meets the same standards that museums have adopted and is limited to items with a secure pre-1970 provenance. He postulated a flimsy claim that items recorded under PAS would not be acceptable and threw in a red herring (nothing to do with ethics) by questioning why objects legally available in other countries are not available in his own.
Well, basically Mr Tompa is easily outclassed, and here was no exception, Knell stuck to his guns, replied in a manner expressing support for private collecting, but emphasising his view that a collector should be ethical for its own sake, to avoid contributing to modern looting:
All I asked was that dealers provide a clear collecting history (provenance) for items so that buyers could distinguish between artefacts from old collections and those from fresh looting. I honestly think if I was any more laid back than that in my attitude to being an "ethical collector", I'd fall over!
And that is all we all are asking, and that is precisely what the dealers Mr Tompa represents seem to be wanting to avoid giving, which the collector eloquently characterises as arrogant intransigence which is wrecking the image of private collecting. Knell counters the tired argument that it is just ("radical") archaeologists behind all of the collectors' woes by pointing out that the world has moved on from the manner of thinking of the 1950s and nineteenth century, which means:
Continue to arrogantly ignore the rest of society and contribute to wiping out the evidence of their history in a selfish pursuit of your own hobby without even a vague attempt to meet them halfway, and you will end up pissing off not only a few archaeologists but every thinking human being on the planet.
Knell concludes his summary of this rather unedifying spectacle:
 My plea that dealers provide a clear collecting history for items so that buyers can distinguish between artefacts from old collections and those from fresh looting continues to fall on deaf ears. Complacency with the current destructive status quo, arrogance against those who dare to challenge it, and contempt for the rest of society appear to be the hallmarks of many in a trade that seems determined to self-destruct.

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