Wednesday 1 April 2020

Irresponsible Collecting Comes Unstuck

Such irresponsible collecting “is a crime
 culture and knowledge of immense proportions—
as the facts unfolding under our eyes do prove.”  - Roberta Mazza 

The Museum of the Bible had this
cuneiform  tablet featuring the Babylonian
Epic of  Gilgamesh on display. Photo courtesy
of the Museum of theBible.  

After years of pressure to return potentially smuggled artefacts, US collector Steve Green is returning 11,500 antiquities from his "biblical art collection" (sic) to the governments of Iraq and Egypt ( Sarah Cascone, 'Amid Scrutiny, the Museum of the Bible’s Founder Will Return a Staggering 11,500 Artifacts of Dubious Origin to the Middle East', March 30, 2020). 
Questions about the provenance of Green’s $30 million collection, which he began amassing in 2009, have plagued the museum for years. In 2017, Hobby Lobby returned 5,500 smuggled Iraqi artifacts and paid a $3 million fine as part of a settlement with the US government. [...]  Green is now returning an additional 5,000 ancient papyrus scraps and 6,500 ancient clay pieces because their provenance cannot be verified, prompting concerns that they could be looted or stolen.  [...] The Green family “poured millions on the legal and illegal antiquities market without having a clue about the history, the material features, cultural value, fragilities, and problems of the objects,” said Manchester University papyrologist Roberta Mazza [...]. 

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