I greatly appreciate all of the responses received and the opportunity that the JEMAHS’s Forum allows to offer my rejoinder. Following, I will summarize a few points from each of the contributions and offer examples and suggestions in consideration of their concerns.
Gill examines the fuctuation of visitation numbers and ticket sales at museums and archaeological sites in Greece going back to 2005. The information, gathered from the Hellenic Statistical Authority, conveys the great interest in and importance of Greece’s ancient heritage. This has immense economic ramifications on the tourism industry beyond our limited consideration of just archaeology. He notes that there have been slight declines in visitation due to the economic crisis, mostly caused by the political situation and protests. Additionally, the effort to decrease operating costs, resulting in limited operating hours, will likely impact revenue when the final 2012 figures are published.
Beyond its brief mention in my essay, Gill specifically focuses on the illicit activities of looting and the global consequences of this practice. He notes that recent returns of ancient objects to Greece materialized despite any coordinated state initiatives. This contrasts greatly to the national and international campaigns arguing for the repatriation of the Parthenon marbles housed at the British Museum (Hamilakis 2007: 243–86; Plantzos 2011). The impetus behind the establishment of the new Acropolis Museum hinged upon the assertion that Greece did not have the facilities to care for these missing sculptures. Now, the country is inundated with state-of-the-art facilities where ancient material culture can be conserved, stored, and exhibited.
While the recent returns are a consequence of the changing ethical practices and the embracing of public accountability by collectors and museums, any authorized legal claims are now too expensive for the state to bear. This situation is drastically different from Turkey’s present practice of withholding archaeology permits as an attempt to force restitution (Evers and Knöfel 2013; Stonington 2013). Turkey’s efforts fail to consider that the universities and academics applying for these permits are generally removed from museums holding contested objects. The grave impact on scientific projects is a contentious rejection of the colonialist practice of archaeology, especially as it is practiced in the Mediterranean.
Greece needs to focus more on establishing stricter internal prohibitions to curb looting that compare to external ones in place, like the MOU with the US. Gill suggests that investment in the protection, exhibition, and excavation of ancient objects would better serve heritage rather than inflexible possession by collectors and museums. Because archaeologists in Greece generally oppose privatization, as suggested by Koutsoumba, this investment would have to take place in a public form, perhaps in the form of tax incentives, as suggested by Georganas.
Within my essay, Georganas recognized the absence of references to the private cultural sector. He reviews the situation experienced by the Benaki Museum that receives state sponsorship and the Foundation of the Hellenic World, which is primarily dependent on dividends, sponsorship, institutional revenue, and EU funding. He is concerned with the proper functioning and performance of these institutions. However, what does this mean in the midst of a crisis and should we maintain such expectations? One needs to expect changes and concessions because of the present situation, rather than a continuation of business as usual. Unfortunately, institutions cannot run at high capacity, maintain all jobs, not endure pay cuts, etc.
In comparison with the US, many public and private institutions were forced to cut staff, reduce budgets, and limit programs (English 2009). This was caused by the dire financial circumstances heightened by the 2008 economic crisis and the reduction of the government’s cultural funding. Within the museum world, a debate ensues on whether museums can sell their collections as assets to keep them operating. For example, in 2009 the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University was scheduled for closure and its works auctioned off (Smith 2009). [End Page 249] However, public outrage prompted a re-consideration of the decision (Kennedy 2011).
Currently, heritage is not sustainable despite positive efforts undertaken by heritage professionals to coordinate and implement projects in order to find this...