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Old 08-09-2018, 07:59 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2018
Posts: 70
Archaeology Ethics - maintaining value

"That belongs in a museum!"

I wonder how many real life Rene Belloq's, Walter Donovan's, and that Panama hat guy Indi keeps taking the cross of coronado back from have creeped around this forum over the years.

What are your thoughts on real life "tomb" raiding, the black market, Cabinet of Curiosities, and private collectors?

The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) for example has a page on ethics.

A thought on Principle No. 3: Commercialization.
So much is lost in private collections because often times an objects true identity is lost and can't be proven. Plus, if the owner were to ever die, then even more knowledge is lost such as location object was found or how it was acquired and we end up with many objects never even making it onto Antiques roadshow(sort of joking). These objects then lose all value and are of a great disservice to society. Objects that might be highly valuable and cool to an individual collector will end up worthless to others and society.

Real life examples of this happening can be found historically when collectors (Henry Wellcome, Hans Sloane, and others) scoured the world seeking items that gave them prestige locally but so many of those items were lost in collections, fires, decay and they removed value from the locations they originated.

It seems culture has changed from where it was more broadly recognized as collectors of rare things being honored to now only a game played by the elite and ultra wealthy far from the eyes of everyone else in the world. Of course without some of these collectors, museums may never have been started or obtained so many wonderful objects.

Besides objects losing context, another significant cost when it comes to private collectors is that when these objects end up with high value created by private collectors, common people are more likely to destroy sites and history in searching for objects to sell to collectors.
Is the cost of private collectors great enough to justify the benefit of museums? Can education be promoted even in the underground and black markets to help these collectors from destroying the very value that they seek?

I very much enjoy going to local museums everywhere I travel. I find so much inspiration and knowledge in visiting them. I'd like to see society/culture understand more about the ethics involved in archaeology so that we place value where it should be placed.

Many of my thoughts on this come from the book An Infinity of Things: How Sir Henry Wellcome Collected the World that takes one through the life of a private collector, but of course from other education I have also done.
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