Monday 9 June 2014

"Yes, Minister", But What Kind of "Culture is for everyone"?

'New Secretary of State wants 'culture for all'...', BBC News 6 June 2014
Culture secretary Sajid Javid
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid has urged the arts community to ensure that "culture is for everyone", during his first keynote speech in Bristol. "I believe that the colour of your skin, the size of your bank balance and the town where you live should not be a barrier to participation and progress," said Mr Javid. He added: "We can and we must do more to make that vision a reality." [...] In his first major speech to the arts sector since taking up the post, he said that "too many Britons are culturally disenfranchised" and "excluded from what should be our shared cultural life".
So... is that "culture for everyone" going to be archaeology, or metal-detector-artefact-hoiking and collecting, trashing sites up and down the country in the name of shallow egalitarianism?

When it comes to the heritage of the past, what kind of "culture" is Baz Thugwit being offered by the British establishment? "Buy a metal detector and you can find out something which we could not teach you in school?" Or will Mr Javid insist on some proper archaeological outreach so the British public can access a much more nuanced picture of the heritage of their past? Will the PAS lead the way, or should it be scrapped in favour of an organization better equipped for the task? Will the archaeological organizations step in and produce a policy discussion document outlining the arguments for proper archaeology to be culture, while artefact hunting is currently eroding the only resource capable of producing information about whole swathes of the British past (the public heritage)?

Or will everybody just nod in perfunctory "Yes Minister" agreement, and get on with sipping their coffee and doing what they were doing before, as usual?


Curious said...

Hi Paul,

If a collector decides to stop collecting unprovenanced antiquities due to concerns over looting, in your opinion, what should they do with the questionable objects that are already in their collection?

Should they simply keep them and stop acquiring new ones?

Should they write to the antiquities departments of source countries and offer to return them? What if they don't respond?

What if he or she only knows the rough region they came from e.g. the Balkans, and not the particular source country?

Should they simply donate them to the local museum?

Or sell them and donate the proceeds to a non-profit organisation that seeks to combat illict looting?

I am curious to hear your thoughts.

Paul Barford said...

I would like to see a situation where such a person cannot get rid of such artefacts because nobody will take them because they may well be looted. Let them be a albatross around their neck. They have the rest of their life to work out what happens to them when they die.

1) what use are they to an "antiquities department" of a looted source country, except for propaganda and making school handling collections for use locally or "don't smuggle" displays at airports ? Should they accept stolen property without any kind of investigation to find guilty parties? Will collector shop the dealers who sold them?

2) Rough region provenance... totally useless, collector should be ashamed of himself for ever entering into such a transaction.

3) Any local museum worth its salt should refuse them. On principle.

4) Nobody should buy them without any paperwork, so how can the collector "sell them"?

Obviously the best solution is to think of the consequences before buying and not get yourself (and your heirs) into a stupid situation.

And is this not what responsible dealers' associations continually be warning people? Why do you think they are not?

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Barford said...

Well, what does that tell us about the honesty, legitimacy and repute-worthiness of this line of business? I think it says a lot, don't you?

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kyri said...

why remove the comments paul but leave your reply?should have let us all read it.i must be honest hear and say that in the beginning of my collecting days paperwork,provenance ,collecting history didnt come into it.not one dealer i was buying from in the late 90s even mentiond collecting history or the ethics of collecting to me.i was buying pieces as i would have bought a piece of furniture or a one in all my collecting days has advised me of the importance of keeping the receipts ect. i had to find out myself the hard 2005 when i took a helmet to the bm i got a lecture from the curator on the ethics of collecting antiquities and the penny dropd in 2006 when i tried to sell some pieces through bonhams i came to realise how important the collecting history,paper work ect was.they wanted to know where and when i bought the piece ,they wanted the receipt to contact the dealer by 2007 i was filling in provenance declaration certificates.luckily i have receipts for everything but the first 5-7 years of buying i wasnt asking the right questions to the seller,ie who the previous owner was and what was their provenance for the for the local museums not taking the pieces i think they would paul.i have made loans to two local museums ,both have nice roman collections and 3 of the curators have archaeological degrees but not one of them asked for a pre 1970 provenance for any of the pieces i the moment its all a numbers game,if they can put on an exhibition for next to nothing and get people through the door than they will do it.there are not many archaeologists that think like you and david gill,who care so passionately about the ethics of collecting,most of them are just worried about keeping their jobs and their museums open.
ps,i favour a system like the one david knell suggested years ago.lets get everything that is out there already, registered with its own number & photo and than no new pieces can come on to the market but unfortunately many dealers and some collectors will never agree to such a scheme.i wonder why.

Paul Barford said...

Kyri, where it says "This comment has been removed by the author", it means the author of the comment, not the blog. I removed nothing. It seems Mr "F." was just another one of those time wasters who sends comments to take up people's time. Probably a dealer or a lawyer.

And while the Jobsworth museum curators don't give a damn about the ethics, just getting people through the doors, the trade goes on making no adjustments to their nineteenth century practices and nobody learns anything. Let's get some museum Trustees (the name should MEAN something) dismissing for breach of contract careless directors who don't give a damn about what they let into their collections (maybe with some Wikilooting pressure), and we'll soon see them bucking their ideas up.

Yes, registration of everything above ground before year X is something I've long advocated. Knell too and now Pearlstein.

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