Sunday, April 29, 2012

State Control Collapsing

Latest Pompeii Collapse: Will State Control Model Collapse Next?
by Peter Tompa

There has been another collapse at Pompeii despite recent EU funding efforts.  See

Yet, the US State Department, the Italian cultural bureaucracy, and the archaeological lobby still maintain that the Italian State should control anything old as it is the best steward to conserve, study and protect it.

No state has enough resources to protect everything, particularly one teetering on the edge of bankruptcy like Italy.  The sooner this basic fact is recognized, the sooner more rational approaches to cultural heritage preservation-- including ones that embrace the value of private collecting-- will be tried, rather than the current approach that assumes a nation state should control everything and anything old. 


It is unrealistic to imagine that "restoring state funding" will ever become the salvation of monuments and antiquities collections that Italy is now neglecting.

State ownership is a very badly broken model. State ownership imposes governmental responsibilities that cost a great deal of money, and now there is no money, and there will never again be anything remotely resembling past lavish budget allocations for "cultural heritage."

Neither Giulia Rodano nor any other culture ministry official in Italy, Greece and many other hard-pressed nations with vast antiquities collections seems able to even begin to comprehend that everything has changed, and that nothing will ever again be the same. Like dinosaurs after the Chicxulub impact, they have no answers and very little understanding, and they are on the road to extinction.

It is also beginning to appear as though "classical archaeologists" are becoming an endangered species. Funding for excavations is vanishing now that partage has been banned. With no excavations there can be almost no research other than studying existing collections whose research potential will soon be exhausted, and without research no science can survive.

Hmmm. Who will then be left to systematically study the preserved remnants of ancient world, developing newly discovered information to expand our understanding of ancient cultures and their history?

Numismatists such as Dr. Farhad Assar, who has personally contributed much more to mankind's knowledge of the ancient Parthian monarchy, its rulers and their chronology than everything archaeologists have offered.

Students of other types of ancient artifacts such as ceramics, seals, amulets, inscribed tablets and weapons, whose expertise and research capabilities have been sadly neglected by context-worshipping archaeologists.

The discipline of "antiquarian studies" will resume its former place as the fountainhead of knowledge derived from physical examination of the remnants of the ancient world, while "classical archaeologists" turn to academia as a venue to purse their endangered careers. Some will find suitable appointments, but how many archaeology students will present themselves for instruction?



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