Friday, July 7, 2017

Hobby Lobby Cuneiform tablets

The seizure of thousands of antiquities including cuneiform tablets from Hobby Lobby in the US raises several issues.

First, the collector seems to have been unaware of the ethical issues surrounding the acquisition of objects without documented collecting histories. There have been numerous cases in recent years of private collectors returning material to countries such as Greece, Turkey, and Italy. The collector has ignored the UNESCO Convention, the AIA Declaration, and examples from history.

Second, the collector seems to have been guided by a consultant who was seeking to form the collection. How much responsibility was given to those who appear to have been overlooking the ethical issues?

Third, it appears that the material was in effect laundered by importing from countries where there were no legal concerns. Information on the networks that were used could be declared in order to prevent future issues.

Fourth, inaccurate and misleading information appears to have been used in the paperwork used for imports.

Fifth, concerns raised by academics about the way that the collection was formed were at best overlooked and at worst rejected.

Sixth, academics associated with the project should have been voicing their concerns in a more public way.

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