Heritage@Risk Seeks Articles and a Question of Ethics in Polling

Posted on December 2, 2008


How I wish I wasn’t swamped at the moment, but there’s a call for articles on Saving Antiquities on Everyone for the ICOMOS series.

“[Heritage@Risk is] looking for contributions that discuss the impact of the illicit artifact trade on archaeological sites and other heritage places. These can be short reports from the field, alerts, etc. (as opposed to academic articles). If interested in contributing, please send a title and brief abstract or description, along with authors’ names, to Brian Egloff (Brian.Egloff@canberra.edu.au).”

For the original post, please refer to Heritage@Risk seeks articles.


Screenshot from SAFECorner poll.

You’ll notice on the sidebar they have a poll which has really been bugging me recently, asking, “Should museums inform the public whether their collections are acquired according to commonly accepted ethical standards?”  It’s such a loaded question!  If “commonly accepted ethical standards” were so straightforward, we wouldn’t have entire scholarly journals and publications and blogs and a profession devoted to the discussion of looting, imperialism, and other acquisition issues.

“Ethical standards” are across the board on this, and the issue of what is ethical behavior in the context of museum acquisitions has most certainly not been settled.  I totally give SAFE the benefit of the doubt on this one that it was unintentional, but I see why some might get the impression the organization is biased (see this post’s comment string).

I have to admit, I was one of the three people that voted “No” to the question, only because I found it so annoying.  Do I feel that museums should make public the provenance (or lack thereof) of every item in their collection?  Yes, I do.  I also feel that public museums should be legally required to do so.  Do I think that private museums should forthwith give up and conform to near-fundamentalist definitions of ethical behavior?  Well, perhaps I should put loaded poll in the sidebar and see what you think.

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