AIA Press Release: Museum Acquisitions Policies
- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: February 28, 2006
Contact: Jane C. Waldbaum, President, Archaeological Institute of America
414-229-3334 OR jcw@...
RE: Museum Acquisitions Policies
ARCHAEOLOGISTS RECOMMEND MORE RESPONSIBLE MUSEUM ACQUISITIONS POLICIES
In response to the AAMD's new guidelines on the loan of archaeological
artifacts and ancient artworks, the Archaeological Institute of America
(AIA) today issued a statement pointing out its shortcomings and proposed a
set of principles for future acquisitions or loans of antiquities by
"The AIA applauds the efforts of the museum community to promote the ethical
acquisitions of antiquities," says Jane Waldbaum, President of the AIA.
"However, we think that the AAMD guidelines fall short in several areas and
do not adequately address the unique nature of archaeological artifacts and
The AIA statement points out that the AAMD's guidelines do not conform to
the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Code of Ethics of 2001 and fail
to require that acquisitions comply with the laws of the country of origin
and of any intermediary countries through which an artifact has been
transferred. Although the AAMD guidelines recommend that museums not
acquire artifacts that have been removed from official excavation sites, the
guidelines ignore clear evidence that most undocumented antiquities come
from unrecorded or unexcavated sites that are most likely to be looted.
"The need for museums to adopt acquisitions policies that recognize the
connection between their acquisitions and the problem of looting
archaeological sites is pressing," says Patty Gerstenblith, Chairwoman of
the AIA's Cultural Property Legislation and Policy Committee and Professor
of Law at De Paul University. "Sites are a non-renewable cultural resource.
The looting of archaeological sites damages the cultural heritage of both
the country where the sites are located and the heritage of everyone."
"The recent Italian repatriation claims have shown that the time is ripe for
the adoption of good new acquisition policies in American museums," says
Malcolm Bell, III, AIA Vice President for Professional Responsibilities and
Professor at the University of Virginia. "The AAMD guidelines are too
permissive; what is called for is a rigorous policy that excludes
acquisition of recently looted art. We need to protect the sites!" The
Archaeological Institute of America recommends four basic principles that
should govern collection-building in the field of ancient art:
1. Museums should adopt a written policy on the acquisition of
antiquities. These policies should be made available to the public on a
museum's website and be widely disseminated.
2. Museums should refuse to acquire objects that are likely to have
been looted in recent times, i.e. those that are not accompanied by
legitimate export documentation from the country of origin.
3. Museum acquisitions policies should include a date before which an
antiquity being considered for acquisition must have been documented if it
is not accompanied by proof of legitimate export from its country of origin.
4. Museums should exercise due diligence in determining whether an
antiquity possesses legitimate documentation that meets acquisition
The full text of the AIA's statement and principles on acquisition of
antiquities may be found on its website at www.archaeological.org.