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AIA Press Release: Museum Acquisitions Policies

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  • cejo@uchicago.edu
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Date: February 28, 2006 Contact: Jane C. Waldbaum, President, Archaeological Institute of America 414-229-3334 OR jcw@uwm.edu RE: Museum
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2006

      Date: February 28, 2006

      Contact: Jane C. Waldbaum, President, Archaeological Institute of America
      414-229-3334 OR jcw@...

      RE: 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
      American museums.

      "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.

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