Saturday, January 17, 2009

Report on Lord Renfrew Talk in New York

Rick Witschonke, a fellow ancient coin collector, wrote the following report about Lord Renfrew's recent talk in New York sponsored by the advocacy group, SAFE. Rick kindly gave his consent to post his report on my blog. Here it is:


Thought you might be interested in a brief report on Renfrew's talk at CUNY last evening.

The event was sponsored by SAFE, so Renfrew was introduced by Cindy Ho; his topic was "Combating the Illicit Antiquities Trade: A Time for Clarity". He spoke for about an hour, and it was mostly his standard anti-Museum agenda, with a few differences. He still spent a lot of time on the Met and Getty (his primary targets last time I saw him), but, with new Directors and new acquisition policies in place at both, he expressed cautious optimism that things had really changed. Ironically, in his discussion of the return of the Lydian treasure, he showed a photo including the gold hippocamp, but failed to mention that subsequent to its return to Turkey it has been stolen and presumably melted (cf. Waxman "Loot"). He also focused on the Bactrian gold trumpet (L.2001.65.1) which has been published as seen in Kabul in 1977, but is still on exhibit at the Met as "Promised gift of Shelby White". He also showed some very detailed color photos of the Medici Geneva warehouse, which I have never seen in print (I wonder where he got them). Renfrew's new primary target seems to be BMFA, which he strongly criticised; he spent about 5 minutes on the Weary Hercules. The overall message was the need for vigilance to ensure that museums live up to their new policies.

The talk was followed by Q&A, so, knowing that Renfrew had supported PAS when its funding was threatened, I took the opportunity to ask: "Do you think that if other source countries were to adopt similar schemes, that it would help to reduce looting ?". His answer was an unqualified yes ("brilliant scheme"), with none of the usual caveats about it not being our place to dictate antiquity policy to other nations. He did, however, express regret that about the increase in UK metal detecting, but says he considers it a lost cause. Overall, an interesting evening.



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