Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Barford and Torquemada

Archaeologist Paul Parford recently posted this to his blog:

"Credo in... a Collector Addresses the Coiney Inquisition.

Speaking in defence of the ACCG and its extremist obstructionist approach to efforts to instill an ethical market in antiquities, John Pennock demanded a confession of faith of a collector who had - as one of few - stood up and expressed doubt about whether this was indeed a good way forward. Præmittendam esse confessionem fidei and Goldsborough is once again forced to defend his rational ideas against the naysayers. ..."

Mr. Barford has most notoriously distinguished himself as insisting upon an ideologically driven Inquisition regarding coin collecting, and from everything said to date his approach seems no more merciful than that of Torquemada. Whilst Mr. Barford does not propose to consign coin collectors to the extremity of the auto da fe, he does insist upon incessantly hectoring them regarding what he deems to be their unethical approach to collecting, i.e. acquisition of unprovenanced coins. Since Mr. Barford in one way or another has had to leave every discussion group I know him to have participated in, his hectoring presently appears in his blog, whose literary merits seem to approach those of "Mein Kampf" - one of the all time bestsellers.

According to Mr. Barford and those who subscribe to his point of view, collecting unprovenanced coins is not only unethical (contravening AIA ethics standards), it funds looters of archaeological sites and international terrorism. Such ideologues equate trade in unprovenanced coins to drug trafficking, and at least one such ideologue has argued that the efforts of ACE, which promotes hands-on exposure to ancient coins as a tool to interest students in studying the past, should be banned from public schools as morally equivalent to drug dealing. Immolating unprovenanced coins (to the stirring strains of the Königgrätzer Marsch) has not yet been scheduled, however one wonders how long it would be before that would take place should Mr. Barford or his ideological allies gain the direction of cultural policy.

Whilst mentally fixated ideologues such as Barford may not yet actually be burning collectors at the stake, one might reasonably wonder whether such a brief agony might not be preferable to the incessant pain and aggravation of seeing the ancient, socially beneficial and respected science of numismatics perish should the illusions and prejudices of Mr. Barford and his ilk prevail.

Should that actually happen, then coin collectors, and every individual to whom personal liberty is important could with good reason join Iago in his lament: "Credo in un Dio crudel ."


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