Sunday, January 23, 2011

New MOU Offers Museums Nothing on Long Term Loans

For years, the mantra of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) was that long term loans to American Museums should substitute for museum acquisitions of unprovenanced antiquities. After the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) changed its acquisition guidelines to respond to these demands, there was hope that such long term loans would become commonplace.

This became an issue during discussions about renewing the Italian MOU. During those discussions, AAMD members expressed concerns that Italy has not complied with its obligations under the current MOU to provide long term loans outside the context of repatriation deals. In response, the AIA claimed two year loans constituted "long term loans" and that American museums were not proactive enough in seeking such loans from Italian authorities.

Though the AAMD had hoped that any new MOU with Italy would tighten Italy's obligations to provide long term loans, no such luck. Rather, all the AAMD has gotten is the prospect of yet more discussions on an issue that has now been "discussed" for some ten years. See 2011 Amendment, Art. II, Para. E-F. available at

Yet more evidence that the museums have received absolutely nothing at all in return for changing their acquisition guidelines and that the State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is unwilling to hold foreign powers to account for even minor concessions in these MOU's. Yes, these MOU's may help ingratiate the AIA and its members to the cultural bureaucrats that hold sway over their excavation permits, but with little benefit or even at great cost to others interested in the exchange of cultural material.

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