Storage Wars: Solving the Archaeological Curation Crisis?
JOURNAL OF EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN ARCHAEOLOGY AND HERITAGE STUDIES
VOL. 3 NO. 1 2015
1 The Palace versus the Home: Social Status and Zooarchaeology at Tušḫan (Ziyaret Tepe), a Neo-Assyrian Administrative Provincial Capital in Southeastern Turkey
Tina L. Greenﬁeld
27 Ancient Greek Deathscapes
42 Storage Wars: Solving the Archaeological Curation Crisis?
Morag M. Kersel
55 Storage Wars 1, Curation 0
61 Is Every Sherd Sacred? Moving Beyond the Cultof Object-Centered Authenticity
Neil Asher Silberman
63 Building Capacity, Sharing Knowledge
71 Developing Strategies for Sustainably Managing Archaeological Collections
77 An Issue of Ethics? Curation and the Obligations of Archaeology
Morag M. Kersel
A principal reason for the archaeological storage / curation crisis is that vast numbers of excavated artifacts and fragments thereof are continually being accumulated, and there is grossly insufficient public funding to securely store and curate all of this largely redundant archaeological material.
One constraint severely aggravating this crisis is the ethical prohibition against archaeologists selling (or in any way being involved in the sale of) artifacts. The seriousness with which this prohibition is taken seemingly compares to prohibition by the Roman Catholic Church against selling holy relics.
If it were possible to devise a cooperative scheme whereby artifacts of minor value to science, once they have served their archaeological purpose (and if not wanted for a reference collection), could ethically be publicly sold with provenance for the financial support of archaeology, museums and curated artifact storage, this observer believes that archaeology, museums and antiquities collectors would all significantly benefit.
This is especially true in the case of ancient coins, whose value to archaeology is typically quite limited and transient, and whose post-excavation curation is often problematical. Very large numbers of excavated ancient bronze coins lie in boxes, buckets and similar containers in storage facilities without climate control and without any attempt being made at conservation, The result is often rapidly progressive bronze disease, which can seriously damage or destroy coins in only a few years.
This scourge (and what must be done to combat it) are discussed here: