Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ethical questions haunt museums’ acquisition of antiquities

KansasCity.com (Steve Paul)

When the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art announced last year that it had acquired a colorful, ancient Egyptian coffin, officials presented a small sheaf of paperwork affirming that all was on the up and up.

This was no back-door, black-market deal involving improperly exported cultural patrimony, the documents were meant to say.

Still, the paper trail went only so far.

There’s no telling what really occurred when the sarcophagus, which once held the remains of a noblewoman named Meretites, left a well-known Egyptian museum collection back in 1972, though Nelson curator Robert Cohon confirmed that heirs of the original private collector had been unloading the family holdings since the 1950s.

And there’s no real sense of the character and intentions of the German and Swiss middlemen with whom the coffin resided over most of the next three decades.

See the above page for the full story.

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