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Rightful Owners?

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by ethics, Dec 11, 2002.

  1. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Some of the world's leading museums have banded together to declare that, dammit, they're keeping ancient artifacts and will not return them to their country of origin.

    The declaration says their collections serve as 'universal museums' that allow people fully appreciate ancient civilizations because of the museums' access to archeological, artistic and ethnic objects. If it weren't for the museums providing these inspiring artifacts, there wouldn't be a universal appreciation of ancient cultures, they further argue.

    As one example, they figure Greek culture wouldn't have become so celebrated if the museums hadn't put the statues on public display. Furthermore, in the case of the Elgin Marbles, the museums also claim to better protect these artifacts from ruin, whether man-made (internal strife or pollution) or natural.

    Of late, there has been increased calls for museums to return artifacts to their originating country.

    -- Nigeria <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/1779236.stm">has called for the British Museum to give back</a> a number of statues taken from the kingdom of Benin, taken over by the British in 1897. Omotoso Eluyemi, head of Nigeria's National Commission for Museums and Monuments, argued, 'These objects of art are the relics of our history - why must we lose them to Europe?' (he also quips: 'If you go to the British Museum, half the things there are from Africa. It should be called the Museum of Africa.')

    -- Turkey managed to get back 363 pieces of gold, silver, precious stones, paintings and sculptures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1993.

    -- Then there's <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/2441103.stm">another controversy</a> involving the British Museum (who hasn't signed the declaration, but says they support it anyway) over the Elgin Marbles. The British Museum argues to be the best place for the statues taken from the Parthenon in Athens in the 19th century, saying it's protected from Athens' pollution. Greece counters that the statues were intended to be a part of the Parthenon, not 2,000 miles away from it's rightful home. The whole thing ended up inspiring a <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/news/story/0,11711,855659,00.html">parody that fooled</a> a respected Belgium (any sightings of this, Claire?) broadsheet into running the spoof about the builder of the Elgin Marbles, and the whole Parthenon, was British complete with a vehement denial by the Greek Ministry of Culture.

    SO what do the GA members think? If a museum funds the project, loots the archeological finds in a foreign country, do they need to give back to the country of origin? Or is it funders keepers, country weepers?
  2. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    The artifacts and historical treasure should belong to the country of origin. I'd like to see the stuff rotated around the world substantially more than they are so that everyone gets to see it. I get really excited when a new exhibit comes to town.

    I really think that it's only right for the objects to go back to their point of origin if only the countries of origin weren't so damn stingy about sharing it. Not everyone can travel the world to see it and the idea that people somewhere are going to miss out on being personally enriched by these displays tends to irk me.
  3. claire

    claire Registered User

    I could not agree more with Coot :)
  4. jamming

    jamming Banned

    Did you see that the earliest humans of the new world had more in common with the Ainu of Japan than the present Native American Tribes. These are the same ancestors that settled Europe from Asia. The earliest Humans of South America had more in common than with the Aboriginies of Australia. They were later displaced by these later tribes through war and breeding. So I mean where do we draw the point? One day Great Britains relics will be owned by some other Nation, I mean Arizona has London Bridge. I was in a Belguim Pub Room that was disassembled and shipped to North Georgia. I just think it just another way to play the race card and get something for nothing.

    How about they find out what the cost was for housing and preserving the aritfact for all those years, and offer them the return if they pay for the cost that was inccurred to the museum. I sure that something that cost 10 L in 1790 at normal average interest rates + upkeep + trained preservation staff hourly rate epnded on the item could be reached. Of course they just want them to give it back they don't want to offer anything in return.

    Rollins College had a Japanese School Bell from Okinawa that had historical nature, they returned the Bell and the Japanese gave them an exact copy of the original. Both sides honored the other for preserving something and returning it instead of allowing it to rot from inattention.
  5. Coriolis

    Coriolis Bob's your uncle

    The Harvard Peabody Museum of Natural History in Cambridge recently had a situation that sets a good example for this type of problem.

    Back in 1899, a railroad tycoon Edward Harriman and his crew came across what looked like a deserted native village in Alaska. The village had been the home of the Tlingit Indians. Harriman and crew loaded their vessel with a bunch of totem poles and other carvings, which were subsequently distributed to various museums around the country, and some travelled abroad on exibitions. One totem pole, known as the Teikweidi totem pole, went to the Harvard Peabody Museum.

    Well, it turned out the Tlingit had only left their village (named Gash) due to a small pox outbreak, and when they returned to collect their carvings and other important stuff some years later (by then they'd settled in a new village named Saxman), they found their village plundered.

    Nine decades later, 1990, George Sr. signed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which <i>"mandates that museums receiving federal funds return cultural property to the native groups to which they belong."</i>

    Saxman officials (decendents of the Tlingit living in Gash in 1899) traced the Teikweidi totem pole to the Peabody and asked for it back. The Peabody not only complied, but commissioned a master Tlingit carver to make them a replacement totem pole. It now stands in the Peabody where the Teikweidi totem pole once stood. I saw it a couple weeks ago -- it's a wonderful peice of work.

    The full story is <A HREF=http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2001/07.19/28-totempole.html">here</A>.
  6. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    Jim, they're talking about the artifacts staying in the land they originated in and not a culture or a society. I seriously doubt that anyone would try and make the case that early South American human remains belong to Japan.
  7. Coriolis

    Coriolis Bob's your uncle

    Jim, how does "playing the race card" factor into this issue?
  8. jamming

    jamming Banned

    Well the wouldn't belong to Japan, Coot they would belong to the Ainu more than the Native Americans here in the US as they would be the oppressors of that earlier tribal people. It would be like giving the Turks the all Armenian artifacts from that area in turkey were they lived if they were in someone elses hands today. Earliest South Americans would be closer genetically to the people of indigenous people of Australia.
  9. Coot

    Coot Passed Away January 7, 2010

    I'm sorry Jim, if 12,000 year old graves and artifacts are discovered in, for instance modern day Chile, then it belongs in Chile. One would hope that with the advent of an enlightened government that those artifacts get shared around the world on travelling exhibits. The items, human remains included, belong in the region they were found.

    You do bring up an interesting point...where is the line separating the science of archaelogy and crime of grave robbing?
  10. jamming

    jamming Banned

    Archaeologist say it is the 20 year period after the last survivor that was alive at the time, is one theory. But even that is flexible as in the case of the Bismark and Titanic. I asked a friend of mind who held a skull when it was first probed for Brain Matter from an 8 thousand year old burial in the mud of a former lake. His response to it was there is no universally accepted period for "historical" Archaeologists but for prehistorical it is what was said above, for native tribes.
  11. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Let me give you guys a real case scenario.

    There's a river in Ukraine, Dnipro, that has been polluted for decades. After the fall of SU, a large cleansing and prep company from US asked Ukraine if they can clean the river. The caveat was that if they found any treasure of archeological finds, they would keep it in return as a payment for the invested time, machinery, and effort to clean the Dnipro.

    Ukraine said no and the river remains polluted, unused to this day.

    I don't necessarily agree that any finds should go back to the country of origin. Here are my reasons.

    Countries are more than just geography, they are political, they are vibrant with a specific culture that has passed by and the current geographical country of origin can be worlds apart from the country that create these archeological items.

    Why should a team of archeologists, spend their own money, or funding money, to seek something only to give back to a country that had little to do with the artifacts in the first place?
  12. jamming

    jamming Banned

    Exactly and they governemnt could of negotiated an even stronger agreement to get the stream cleaned. Instead reject the project out of hand.
  13. Frodo Lives

    Frodo Lives Luke, I am NOT your father!

    These precious artifacts belong in a place that they would be appreciated and cared for. Considering how some countries, such as Afghanistan under Taliban rule, treated and destroyed historical artifacts, they should stay with the museums.
  14. -Ken

    -Ken Guest

    No way!

    Because some half-assed government is in charge of the country at any given time does not give them ownership of the world's treasures.

    All it takes is some religious zealot and a little explosives and you have this...

    It doesn't even take a religious idiot to ruin these pieces of mankind's history. In Chile the government can't afford to feed their people (hey, not just Chile, the US has an ever-increasing problem of our children going to bed hungry - but I digress).

    If they can't feed their people, they probably don't have enough money to properly conserve <i>our</i> treasures.

    Unless a country can show both the stability and resources to protect the priceless piece of all of our history, we don't owe them anything in my opinion.
  15. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Jeez, I agree with Ken?
  16. -Ken

    -Ken Guest

    Don't worry Ethics,

    It was bound to happen based on the random odds this universe throws at us.
  17. jamming

    jamming Banned

    There was that time when Ken and Haywire were agreeing, I was researching it as one of the signs of the Apocalypse. Then every thing went back to normal.
  18. -Ken

    -Ken Guest


    Actually, we weren't agreeing as much as screaming the same things at each other without listening to each other.

    There is a difference.

    You can rest easy, the universe is safe (for now).
  19. Paladin

    Paladin Have Gun -- Will Travel

    I go to a yard sale, find a ming vase being given away for $10. I get it and sell it to a museum for $10,000. Years later the yard seller's son demands the museum gives it back. This is right?
    If not sold for $10 to someone interested in preserving it the vase would have been broken and tossed as junk. It is *only* because it was taken to a museum that it even exists today

    The countries that are claiming these relics are not the original owners. For the most part; at the time the relics were removed the owners were either long dead or did not care.

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