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The Acquisition and Exhibition of Classical Antiquities

Professional, Legal, and Ethical Perspectives

Edited by Robin F. Rhodes

Publication Year: 2007

Cultural property and its stewardship have long been concerns of museums, archaeologists, art historians, and nations, but recently the legal and political consequences of collecting antiquities have also attracted broad media attention. This has been the result, in part, of several high-profile trials, as well as demands by various governments for the return of antiquities to their countries of origin. These circumstances call out for public discussion that moves beyond the rather clear-cut moral response to looting, to consider the implications of buying, selling, and exhibiting antiquities. To whom should they belong? What constitutes legal ownership of antiquities? What laws govern their importation into the United States, for instance? What circumstances, if any, demand the return of those antiquities to their countries of origin? Is there a consensus among archaeologists and museum directors about these issues? These and other pertinent issues are addressed in the essays and responses collected in this volume. Delivered at a 2007 symposium by eminent museum directors and curators, legal scholars, archaeologists, and historians and practitioners of art and architecture, these papers comprise a rich and nuanced reference work.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xii

Cultural property and its stewardship have long been concerns of museums, archaeologists, art historians, and nations, but recently the laws, policies, and consequences of collecting and exhibiting antiquities have also attracted the broader interest of the media and the public. This has been the result, in part, of several thefts and high-profile trials, and various foreign governments are now demanding the return of specific antiquities to their countries of origin...

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pp. 1-8

I would like to thank Associate Provost and Vice President Jean Ann Linney for welcoming us all to the Annenberg Auditorium of the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame. I, too, would like to welcome you to our symposium entitled “The Acquisition and Exhibition of Classical Antiquities: Professional, Legal, and Ethical Perspectives.” It promises to be a lively discussion of a complex problem of great topical interest and of global significance...

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Art Museums, Archaeology, and Antiquities in an Age of Sectarian Violence and Nationalist Politics

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pp. 9-30

For nearly fifty years, archaeologists and their supporters have lobbied for national and international laws, treaties, and conventions to prohibit the international movement in antiquities. For many of those years, U.S. art museums that collect antiquities have opposed these attempts. The differences between archaeologists and U.S. art museums on this matter have spilled out into the public realm by way of reports in newspapers and magazines, public and university symposia, and specialist— even sensationalist—books on the topic...

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Dealing with Looted Antiquities: Existing Collections and the Market

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pp. 31-45

The past several years have dramatized as never before the need to protect artistic monuments and archaeological sites from intentionally destructive acts. The bombing of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, the looting of the Archaeological Museum in Baghdad and of sites throughout Iraq, the prosecution in Rome of prominent figures from the world of museums and the art market, and the recent repatriation of pillaged works to Italy by U.S.museums have all demonstrated to an international public...

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The Acquisition and Exhibition of Classical Antiquities: The Legal Perspective

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pp. 47-63

The legal perspective on the acquisition and exhibition of classical antiquities implicates several aspects of integrated national and international legal doctrine, yet is fairly straightforward. On the other hand, a series of events over the past decade and more illustrate a persistent refusal of some in the museum world to accept the fundamental law. In so doing, they attempt to set themselves above the law based on the presumption...

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Scylla or Charybdis: Antiquities Collecting by University Art Museums

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pp. 65-80

My title refers to the dilemma I often feel when talking, on the one hand, with archaeologists who are understandably disturbed about the looting of archaeological sites and the loss of valuable evidence, and on the other hand, with museum directors who are equally passionate about the educational value of displaying objects drawn from all cultures, no matter what their provenance, to an audience that also reflects many cultures...

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Antiquities without Provenance: The Original Sin in the Field

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pp. 81-94

First of all, let me thank my friend Robin Rhodes for inviting me to participate in this symposium and to bring testimony from one of the countries that is most deeply touched by the problem of the illegal looting of archaeological sites, and by the problem of the dispersion of antiquities in the clandestine market and their acquisition by museums and private collectors all over the world. My testimony is that of an archaeologist working as an officer of the...

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Rethinking the Remedy of Return in International Art Law

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pp. 95-117

In 2002, Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, requested that Germany return the Ishtar Gate.1 The massive structure of glazed brick built around 600 BCE was one of the outstanding features of the ancient city of Babylon. 2 German architects and archaeologists excavated it between 1899 and 1917 with the permission of Ottoman authorities. The Germans performed a monumental job of restoration and housed the Gate in the...

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The Corinth Theft

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pp. 119-131

During the night of April 12, 1990, Good Thursday in the Greek Orthodox Easter Calendar, thieves broke into the Corinth Archaeological Museum in Greece and carried off more than 270 objects. When the American School of Classical Studies in Athens built the museum in 1932, the likelihood of theft was relatively slight, and the safety measures taken then were thought to be sufficient: heavy bronze doors, thick walls of solid concrete, and windows divided into slats that were too narrow for passage. At the same time, the building’s design reflected a spirit of...

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Response to Nancy Bookidis

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pp. 132-137

Nancy Bookidis uses the theft at the Archaeological Museum, a major art theft perpetrated by professional criminals, as an example of the effect of the illicit antiquities trade upon museums, art history, and archaeological research. Bookidis also illustrates what measures museums might put in place to increase the likelihood of recovery, as well as measures that might reduce the number of art thefts from museums and archaeological sites. But her main point is that the market for antiquities acts as a catalyst for theft from museums as well as from archaeological...

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Talking to the Troops about the Archaeology of Iraq and Afghanistan

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pp. 139-154

Archaeologists and museum curators deal with the antiquities market in one way or another every day of their lives, especially the ethics of acquisitions, questions of provenance, and the shifting character of international law.1 The focus is generally on antiquities whose site of plunder cannot be identified, either because such objects were continually traded in antiquity, or because their style does not point toward a particular country of origin...

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pp. 155-159

Presented in this volume are the papers and the responses delivered at the symposium “The Acquisition and Exhibition of Classical Antiquities: Professional, Legal, and Ethical Perspectives,” held on February 24, 2007, in the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame. Not transcribed here is the lively open discussion that followed both the morning and the afternoon sessions. A DVD archive of the entire proceedings exists in the collection of the Hesburgh Library at Notre Dame and in the Snite Museum.

Appendix: Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970 (Articles 1–13 of 26)

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pp. 160-168


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pp. 169-175

E-ISBN-13: 9780268091699
E-ISBN-10: 0268091692
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268040277
Print-ISBN-10: 0268040273

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: Images removed; no digital rights.
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 694144511
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Acquisition and Exhibition of Classical Antiquities

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Archaeology -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Archaeologists -- Professional ethics.
  • Antiquities -- Collection and preservation -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Cultural property -- Protection -- Law and legislation.
  • Greece -- Antiquities -- Collection and preservation.
  • Rome (Italy) -- Antiquities -- Collection and preservation.
  • Middle East -- Antiquities -- Collection and preservation.
  • Archaeological thefts.
  • Cultural property -- Protection (International law).
  • Cultural property -- Protection.
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