Sunday, May 21, 2006

Museums and controversial antiquities (Business Week)
A useful overview of the current state of play following the recent spate of claims by countries who believe that they have the right to demand the repatriation of antiquities currently held by foreign museums. The obvious and most recent example of this from Egypt is the St Louis mask, but there have been high profile cases brought by both Italy and Greece which have helped to bring the matter to the attention of the wider public. The focus here is mainly on the nature of regulation in the U.S., where most of the recent controversies have been taken place: "Claims are likely to proliferate as so-called source nations such as Egypt, Yemen, Greece, Turkey, China, Guatemala, and Peru are emboldened by Italy's success with the Met -- and museum directors are chastened by the associated bad PR and potential lawsuits. . . .The likely result of all the controversy: a cleanup of the U.S. antiquities trade, which its critics contend has been all too willing to turn a blind eye to questionable activities. . . . Several dealers in the U.S. and Europe have already been charged with, or convicted of, crimes. But the broader aim of the source nations is to cut off the market for stolen antiquities by shaming big U.S. museums and collectors into tightening their acquisitions standards, something European institutions such as the British Museum have already done".
See the above article for the full story.

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