|Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask. Source: SLAM|
Reed makes an important point about 'verified' information; I choose to talk about 'authenticated' documentation. How to we chart the collecting history of an object? What are the confirmed sources?
I was taken by this section:
If, however, an investigation turns up looted antiquities in a museum collection (for example, if photographs show an object shortly after it was illicitly removed from the ground, or if its provenance documentation was demonstrably forged), then a museum has an obligation to redress the break in the chain of that object’s ownership in some way. Usually such a resolution is achieved through a financial settlement with, or physical return to, the country of modern discovery. Museums hold their collections as public trusts, and no museum should wish knowingly to retain stolen property on behalf of the public.It is worth returning to the case of the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy case at the St Louis Art Museum ("The Case of the Ka Nefer Nefer Mummy Mask"). Now that the email discussions have been made public it would be appropriate for the museum to revisit the acquisition and to start negotiating with the Egyptian authorities.
|Minoan larnax. Source Becchina archive, and Carlos Museum|
Reed, I am sure, is sincere in what she writes. But her writing does not take full account of museums in North America that have yet to adjust their ethical positions in defiance of their public and educational roles.