Who Owns Antiquity?: Museums and the Battle over Our Ancient Heritage

Who Owns Antiquity Museums and the Battle over Our Ancient Heritage Whether antiquities should be returned to the countries where they were found is one of the most urgent and controversial issues in the art world today and it has pitted museums private collectors

  • Title: Who Owns Antiquity?: Museums and the Battle over Our Ancient Heritage
  • Author: James Cuno
  • ISBN: 9780691137124
  • Page: 499
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Whether antiquities should be returned to the countries where they were found is one of the most urgent and controversial issues in the art world today, and it has pitted museums, private collectors, and dealers against source countries, archaeologists, and academics Maintaining that the acquisition of undocumented antiquities by museums encourages the looting of archaeolWhether antiquities should be returned to the countries where they were found is one of the most urgent and controversial issues in the art world today, and it has pitted museums, private collectors, and dealers against source countries, archaeologists, and academics Maintaining that the acquisition of undocumented antiquities by museums encourages the looting of archaeological sites, countries such as Italy, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and China have claimed ancient artifacts as state property, called for their return from museums around the world, and passed laws against their future export But in Who Owns Antiquity , one of the world s leading museum directors vigorously challenges this nationalistic position, arguing that it is damaging and often disingenuous Antiquities, James Cuno argues, are the cultural property of all humankind, evidence of the world s ancient past and not that of a particular modern nation They comprise antiquity, and antiquity knows no borders Cuno argues that nationalistic retention and reclamation policies impede common access to this common heritage and encourage a dubious and dangerous politicization of antiquities and of culture itself Antiquities need to be protected from looting but also from nationalistic identity politics To do this, Cuno calls for measures to broaden rather than restrict international access to antiquities He advocates restoration of the system under which source countries would share newly discovered artifacts in exchange for archaeological help, and he argues that museums should again be allowed reasonable ways to acquire undocumented antiquities Cuno explains how partage broadened access to our ancient heritage and helped create national museums in Cairo, Baghdad, and Kabul The first extended defense of the side of museums in the struggle over antiquities, Who Owns Antiquity is sure to be as important as it is controversial.

    One thought on “Who Owns Antiquity?: Museums and the Battle over Our Ancient Heritage”

    1. One year ago, New York’s Metropolitan Museum announced that it will return 19 objects from King Tut’s tomb to Egypt – 19 small bits and fragments. The Met has been quick to toot its own horn, saying the return of these objects was voluntary and that they were under no legal obligation to do anything. But we’re not talking the Rosetta Stone here. Nor the famous Nefertiti bust held in Berlin. Nor the incredible Haremhad statue detained at the Met. Nineteen trinkets is nothing to crow about [...]

    2. An interesting, passionate argument against retentionist cultural property laws. I am inclined to lean toward the author's side of the fence, in that antiquities are the property of the world community and do not belong to single nation-states, but the text's praise of "globalization" made me a bit apprehensive. A global community is ideal, but until we get past nation-state egos my fear is of globalization becoming some kind of weapon ("the most superior nation-state gets to globalize in its ow [...]

    3. While I didn't agree with every point Cuno made, I think Who Owns Antiquity? makes some important points about the weaknesses of international law regarding cultural heritage, and some of the messy problems museums, governments, and archeologists must tackle. I'm not clear why so many people seem to have found it difficult to read (I found it straightforward, if a tad repetitive at times) and highly recommend it as an introduction to the subject.

    4. While still conspicuously ignorant of the subjects, museum acquisitions, museology in general, and the debates concerning (re)appropriation of “culturally significant objects” all fascinate me. James Cuno manages to cover all these bases in this book whose major question is: Do modern states have the right to demand the return of objects that may be deemed to have cultural, aesthetic, or national value? And if they do, what reasons validate this demand? Cuno’s short answer is that states d [...]

    5. I strongly disagree with this book’s premise, but it provides a good overview of cultural heritage law development, and I find the author’s self-contradictions amusing. James Cuno is a divisive figure in the field of cultural heritage repatriation, which means returning some art and archaeological objects back to their countries of origin for moral reasons. Big encyclopedic museums like the Louvre own objects from around the world. Some of these objects were acquired during colonial times. I [...]

    6. The crux of Cuno's argument is essentially pro-museum: Ancient art and artifacts belong to humankind and should therefore be held in a way that they can be best studied and viewed by all, as well as be best preserved, and modern nation-states, particularly when they have no lineage from or appreciation of the ancient civilization from which the works came, should not have property rights in such works simply because the works happened to have been found in the soil within a given nation-state's [...]

    7. I felt like this book was bland. I know Cuno's trying to make some points; it's just soooo tiring getting there. There are a couple of good nuggets, but overall, it's just soooo blah. There are a few times of "Oh, I hadn't thought of that point in the argument of who should get to keep certain antiquities," and some good history/details of international rules about antiquities. But overall Blah.I suppose this would be a good resource if you were in the middle of writing policy about stolen/illeg [...]

    8. Cuno argues that current laws and policies regarding archaeological finds are conducive only to nationalism, not education. "What, we wondered, is a national culture in this modern age, when the geographic extent of so many cultures does not coincide with national borders, and when national borders are usually new and artificial creations designating sovereignty over the cultural artifacts of peoples no longer extant or no longer in political power?"

    9. Interesting because he lays out the legal arguments, as well as cultural arguments of why groups may or may not have claim to antiquities simply because they were once part of their land. Whose cultures have benefitted? How have acheologists and anthropologists avoided being an active and productive part of the discussion? Cuno addresses these topics and more. I will never visit an art, natural history, or cultural museum with the same eye ever again.

    10. If you believe that the Elgin marbles should be returned to Athens because the contemporary geopolitical entity that holds sovereignty there asserts they belong to it because they are essential to its cultural esteem (and where they were found), this book is not for you.

    11. SO boring and the digital edition's quality was awful; black boxes instead of images, a dearth of capital letters at the beginning of sentences and proper nouns Dreadful. I couldn't bring myself to finish it.

    12. Thought-provoking. I don't entirely agree with Cuno's conclusions about western museums as the best custodians for ancient artifacts but he makes a good case and raises all the right issues using real-world examples.

    13. Title is self-explanatory - discusses issues of nationality and imperialism in the management of historical artefacts. The author is making an argument against nationalistic retention, but still provides a very good overview.

    14. So far, I am only in the introduction, but I really enjoy what I am reading. It has discussed the Elgin/Parthenon Marbles, the Rosetta Stone and ancient Chinese Bronzes. It is very easy to read and I am interested to see where it goes from here.

    15. A very good read, in all. However, the parts on the political side, especially in terms of international and nationalistic retentionist policies, were too technical. Apart from that, it was well thought-out, and the history was told well.

    16. This book changed the way I view antiquities and their ownership. It systematically goes through every possible argument and debunks it. This is truly a great read!

    17. blah. apologia for the centralization of global history into museums built, funded and run by rich dead (on the inside) europeans. Q: Who owns antiquity? A: The same people who own everything else.

    18. Thought provoking. Certainly an interesting take on a challenging issue, who owns what is found below the ground of the country you're in?

    19. brings up some good points, however, hard to get past the self-important and self-righteous attitude that comes across in the writing.

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