Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cultural Ownership

I've only read the review of Who Owns Antiquity? by James Cuno
Treasures on Trial: In Defense of Museums That Resist the Call To Repatriate Ancient Artifacts, not the book, but I think the author makes some good points. I especially liked this:

He felt momentarily part of immemorial human endeavor. That kind of wonder may still be possible only in an "encyclopedic museum," where antiquities from all cultures are assembled to reveal the full range of human genius. As the French poet Paul Claudel wrote: "For the flight of a single butterfly the entire sky is needed."

Part of the power of archives is the ability to make us feel part of a whole.

The question, however, is who has ownership and who has control. Whether antiquity can be owned or not, I don't know, but certainly physical items have ownership. Whether the item is owned by the community, the legal government, an archives or museum, or an individual is the question. My tendency is to want ownership by the community whose members created the items. I think the comment "this is where they can do the most good" from Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum when refusing even to lend the Elgin Marbles to the Greeks is misguided at best, arrogant at worst. I also have reservations about partage; it smacks too much of "dividing the loot" and "finders keepers".

1 comment:

Tiah Edmunson-Morton said...

The next step in my mind is to wonder what role the community should have in the description or in their interaction with the items in collections?