Wednesday 22 October 2014

The Shame of St Louis

Credit really belongs to the art museum and
its leadership for not caving in to the government's
threats and, after winning the case, for compelling the
government to pay the cost of defending a lawsuit that
never should have been filed."

St Louis, 'senseless lawless farce'
The amazing case of the Ka Nefer Nefer mask which was accepted by a US court as having been in two places at once has come to an end, when the federal government paid $425,000 of taxpayers' cash in attorney fees and costs to Dentons and Husch Blackwell for their work on behalf of the Saint Louis Art Museum, which is about what the museum had paid for the mask in the first place (Jenna Greene, 'Feds Lose Fight Over Ancient Mummy Mask', The National Law Journal October 21, 2014).

Mr McInerney (above) is quite right, the lawsuit should never have had to be filed. The museum, on it transpiring that there was documentation showing the mask could not have reached the European market in the manner in which the supplied collecting history asserted, should jolly well have sent it back either to the seller, or to Egypt. At the same time issuing apologies to the good folk that forked out the purchase funds in good faith (trusting the Museum's trustees to do the job of preventing dodgy acquisitions). Museum ethics and professionalism and simple civilised honesty require nothing less. Instead SLAM decided to be confrontational and brazen it out and they and their lawyers are now congratulating themselves on having trampled all over common decency in pursuit of their trophies. Shame on all involved. Watch this bit:
In 2006, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities realized it was in St. Louis—and asked for it back. The museum said no.
But it's not a simple as that, is it? This story and the shaming of SLAM and the people of St Louis are not over yet. There is at least one more untold story here. As the Buddha is reputed to have said: "Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth".

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