AIA: Stop Collecting!
BY Peter Tompa
Brian Rose, the AIA's immediate past president, has been quoted as telling America's museums to stop collecting antiquities. According to the report, Rose said he felt the era in which American museums can collect antiquities is coming to a close. Source countries are becoming more aggressive in pursuing traffickers and enforcing laws against looting, he said.
Buying antiquities could alienate foreign governments and prevent the cooperation necessary for international loans of individual objects or traveling exhibitions, Rose said. “You’ll end up in litigation, and you won’t be able to enter into collaborative projects,” he said. “It’s all about collaboration now.” Rather than collect, museums ought to forge agreements with source countries to share cultural riches, Rose said.
Despite such quotes, archaeo-blogger Paul Barford continues to claim that the AIA is really not against collecting. But if so, where are quotes from the AIA's leadership indicating that they support the rights of ordinary Americans to collect minor portable antiquities, such as coins, let alone more significant items?
The AIA really is dead-set against private collecting. It instead wants all "archaeological artifacts" including minor antiquities such as ancient coins to be locked up in institutions and warehouses where they will never again be touched by the public, and can only be studied by archaeologists and artifact studies specialists who serve archaeologists.
The AIA is completely out of step with public opinion. It has alienated US collectors to the point where these once enthusiastic supporters of archaeology have come to think that archaeology has grown into such a malignant cancer upon society that they have consequently not only stopped supporting it, they refuse to allow their children to study archaeology, they are looking for ways and means to stop all public funding of archaeology, and they are seeking ways to reform the State Department's Cultural Heritage Center to end its slavish affiliation with the AIA.