Leasing Antiquities?
May 11, 2007 7:01 AM   Subscribe

Micheal Kremer's proposal to lease antiquities: Most countries prohibit the export of certain antiquities. This practice often leads to illegal excavation and looting for the black market, which damages the items and destroys important aspects of the archaeological record. We argue that long-term leases of antiquities would raise revenue for the country of origin while preserving its long-term ownership rights... via The Art Law Blog
posted by RMD (10 comments total)
Makes sense to me.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:34 AM on May 11, 2007

Sorry, I mispelled his name, it should be Michael Kremer
posted by RMD at 7:38 AM on May 11, 2007

The British Museum has a lot of back rent to pay.
posted by three blind mice at 7:50 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

great. Now a viral for Harvard's School of Economics. nice. real nice.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:15 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

In related news: Egypt to fight for Nefertiti bust return -- "German museum says object too fragile to ever travel."
posted by ericb at 8:15 AM on May 11, 2007

This is one of the more interesting (by which I mean, "depressing") fights over custody of antiquities. Shyster lawyers and post-colonial politics means that the term "priceless" no longer has any meaning at all.

Not sure how much of an impact this plan would have. Most countries have gotten pretty savvy these days about protection of their cultural relics. Disputes over sovereignty are much more a vestige of colonial exploitation. These days, if an archaeologist wants to take something out of its country of origin, custodial rights are carefully controlled. And there is a huge impetus to keep valuable antiquities in country, given that they bolster tourism, national pride, and local academies.

Illegal excavation has less to do with the national policy on antiquities export and more to do with depressed economies and the inability effectively to police archaeological dig sites. No matter what the national policy may be, there will always be some poor bastard looking to make a quick buck. Not to mention unscrupulous collectors willing to help him do it.
posted by felix betachat at 8:20 AM on May 11, 2007

Or they could all do what China did with the Terra-cotta Warrior statues that it sent out on a world tour of museums. They were reproductions. The museums were not amused, for some reason.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:27 AM on May 11, 2007

Hmm...having looked at the essay more closely, let me amend my second sentence above: "Shyster lawyers, post-colonial politics and economists who monetize everything in existence mean that the term "priceless" no longer has any meaning at all."
posted by felix betachat at 8:29 AM on May 11, 2007

I'm pretty sure all of these antiquities in museums are insured already anyway, so they aren't priceless, insofar as they have a dollar value attached to them.

I don't like the idea of leasing them because it will force argument about what some *countries* are owed today because in the distant past another country was free to take stuff out. The Egypt of 4000 years ago has no relationship to the Egypt of today except in name and some overlapping geography. The language and culture aren't the same.

Furthermore, the British Museum may have done these countries a service. The bas reliefs of the parthenon in the museum are in considerably better condition than the ones still on the Parthenon in Greece.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:23 PM on May 11, 2007

The Alaska State Museum already has a program in place where objects are co-owned with Native Alaskan groups. For example, the Kiks 'Adi (Tlingit Frog Clan, Raven moiety) own a hat that has deep ceremonial meaning. The Clan appoints a guardian of the hat who wears it during dances and ceremonies. The Museum takes the hat out of the display case, packs it in a special traveling case, and checks it out. When it comes back, they clean it, repair any damage, and put it back on display. I've seen that hat danced up the aisle at memorial parties and Celebration and it always restores my faith in people's ability to work together.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:13 PM on May 11, 2007

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