Friday 28 February 2020

Helsinki University Leaps to Defence of Collaborating with Collectors of Archaeological Artefacts

Whoahhhh....  Helsingin yliopisto is Finland’s largest, oldest and internationally most esteemed research university.
Really? Where? In what way is it "bullying" to say that one disagrees (strongly) with an academic position and saying why?

and who, actually, at ten o'clock in the morning today asked "the University of Helsinki" (all of it?) to respond to a British archaeologist's tweet criticising collaboration with artefact collectors?

I'm going to ask them again, their researcher was handling material from several somewhat-infamous already private collections containing material that really does require careful scrutiny, writing: (p 102)... "The tablets are of unprovenanced origin and they have found their way into several private collections, including those of [...] Moussaieff, [...] Schøyen, and [...] Sofer" I queried the coy phrasing:
 "found their way"? Coy but uninformative about the true nature of some of material author is working with. ][...] Jozef Mengele also had access to a lot of potentially useful medical information from his experiments, as do Chinese doctors who experimented on convicts there too. Somehow medical science does not agree to publishing or using these data. So why does Brill and historiography?

By the way, "Brill and historiography" NOT Helsinki University, but it would appear that the latter might feel empowered to consider itself as representing the whole of historiography...
Then there is this bit of self-justification in that 'discussion of ethics' (publication, pp. 39-43):
"the failure of the Iraqi and Syrian states to protect their cultural heritage [...] states have not been able or willing to enforce the statutes of the convention to their full extent" yeah? Syria and Iraq it means, it is THEIR fault? You'll forgive me for saying that the author seems to have lost the idea of "ethical" here. And "As the tablets have already been removed from their archaeological context and the damage cannot be undone, there is no reason to leave them unpublished". Really? Apart from the fact that the collectors with whom this author is gaily collaborating get vindicated by this "the academic community has a responsibility to preserve this [sic] data for future generations". The academic community has OTHER responsibilities too, doesn't it? [...] sheltering behind "the academic community", the author does not declare their own personal (career) interest in being the gatekeeper to and facilitator of stolen information. No, this discussion wilfully skips across a whole load of issues while claiming to want to "initiate discussion". What the author actually wants is, in my opinion, something else entirely. And that's what we as academics should be discussing, putting responsibilities before personal needs.
So, University of Helsinki, let us genuinely debate the ethics of research on this type of material, the ethics of collaborating with artefact hunters dismantling archaeological sites as a source of choice collectables (as is also seen in the project European Public Finds Recording Network hosted on the Helsinki University's website). Where are we going to do it, here?

What is the current position of the "University of Helsinki" on the looting of the archaeological heritage as a source of material for the collectors' market"?

Maybe you could sign your contributions to this "genuine debate". My name is Paul Barford and I am not ashamed of that and have no need to hide behind institutional names. Why do you?

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