Sunday 25 May 2014

"and What's Wrong With That?"

David Knell answers the question of Peter Tompa about coin collecting: "what's wrong with that?" Knell says that as long as the collector of today can ensure that the coins he collects are not encouraging the ongoing mass destruction of archaeological evidence to provide them, there is no wrong. What would be wrong is that through ignorance and neglect, the collector by buying artefacts deriving from damaging and illegal commercial activity contributes to the obliteration of the evidence of the very past cultures they profess to be studying through the little metal discs with the pictures and writing on them, "a responsible modern collector will ensure his actions are not adding to the carnage of that fragile and finite resource".
Since Peter Tompa is a modern collector himself, I look forward to reading about his own method of ensuring that his acquisitions have not derived from recent devastation. And since he is also a lobbyist for the coin trade, no doubt he will be exhorting the dealers he represents to adopt a similar thoughtful approach - scrupulously examining the sources of their stock and keeping meticulous records of every item (perhaps along the lines of a publicly accessible registry to date-stamp them) so that other collectors can avoid buying fresh loot too.

After all, progress is not all bad. Modern technology has abetted looting but it has also increased our awareness of its appalling result. We can no longer claim the excuse of living in an isolated bubble; global information is now instantly at our fingertips. Any caring modern collector or dealer will be far more aware of the desperate need to conserve what remains of our archaeological heritage than people were a few decades ago. They can still experience the joys of collecting but they now know the dangers of their hobby and can aim to avoid them. And what's wrong with that?

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