Museums Should Dig In

23 Dec 2010 11:10 AM | Anonymous

Op-Ed Contributor
Museums Should Dig In
Published: December 22, 2010, NY Times

THIS year saw the end of the five-year-long trial here of Marion True, a former antiquities curator of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The case against her undefined for the purchase of art allegedly looted from Italy undefined petered out inconclusively when the Italian statute of limitations expired.

The Getty is hardly the only American institution to be accused of buying art of dubious origin. In recent years, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Princeton University Art Museum have all returned contested works of art to the Italian authorities.

Even when museums have the best of intentions, some of the works they buy have passed through the hands of underground suppliers. It’s hard for museums to avoid the black market partly because there is so little legitimate excavation going on that can yield new finds. Illicit trade in antiquities, therefore, drives prices up and encourages looters to raid unprotected sites

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