Turkey Moves Forward
by Peter Tompa
While Greece is floundering, Turkey is moving forward through a major liberalization of its economy and political life. Now, the Turkish Government also appears to be taking a major step towards rational management of its cultural resources.
According to the report,
"The changes, which were proposed by the Board of Protection of Cultural and Natural Assets and first announced in the Official Gazette on Jan. 19, dictate that artifacts which are not being used by museums can be valued by a specially formed commission and sold."
Of course, while the Old Guard in the Military has been largely vanquished, the Old Guard in the Turkish Archaeological Establishment fights on:
"The head of the İstanbul branch of the Archeological Association, Dr. Necmi Karul, told the Vatan daily in comments published on Feb. 18 that the changes undermine the most basic of archaeological principles, namely that any artifact from any period of history is part of a shared culture and should, thus, remain as such. Karul said the main benefactors of the change in the law will be private collectors who will be able to access valuable items, many of which can still be put to equally good use by being passed on to other museums for display or used in universities or other educational institutes for the purposes of teaching."
Yet, even in good times, there is never enough money to properly preserve, study and display everything. And while passing along artifacts to other institutions may sound reasonable and is probably a good idea for some artifacts, generating funds through sales would likely benefit the cultural establishment as whole much better.
This new Turkish policy implements an approach that pro-collecting advocates [including this observer] have recommended for years: deaccession and sale (with provenance) of redundant artifacts not needed for display in museums, or for scientific research collections.
In addition to the important benefits gained from generating funds through such sales, distribution of redundant artifacts to individual collectors will make them accessible to the public. This will increase interest in our ancient heritage, and public support for the cultural establishment, museums and site protection (including conservation).