Tuesday 13 January 2015

AIA Artefact Sales Policy Clarification

Sheila Dillon, Editor-in-Chief for the American Journal of Archaeology, has published a letter in the January 2015 issue (see here and here) which clarifies the AIA positions on scholarship and collecting history. As is well-known the AIA has a policy dating from 2004 that they will not publish "any article that serves as the primary publication of any object or archaeological material in a private or public collection acquired after 30 December 1973 unless its existence is documented before that date or it was legally exported from the country of origin". This is entirely reasonable and I support this - even though there are those who criticise this from a narrow object-centred points of view.

My disquiet was raised by rumblings that they were going to come out with a more strict viewpoint that any sale of antiquities, with or without a documented collecting history going back four decades on the grounds that this "reinforces the commodification of archaeological material and in effect condones the traffic in antiquities".
[This] is in opposition to the AIA's principal missions of research and education. As stewards of the past, no one associated with the AIA should be incentivizing the illicit trade in antiquities, which is a global criminal activity. High-profile sales such as these can have the unintended consequence of putting further at risk the archaeological heritage that the AIA has vowed to pr
It becomes clear then that the issue is not actually with all antiquities with documentation of collecting history, but the involvement of AIA members in the sale of antiquities. Again, I see nothing wrong with that. If anyone wants to be an antiquities dealer, let them first resign from the AIA and join something else.

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