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Antiquities Collecting in Spotlight at AAMD’s Midwinter Meeting

Dallas Museum of Art director Max Anderson, chair of AAMD’s Task Force on Archaeological Material & Ancient Art

I can’t take any credit for this, but when it meets in Kansas City next week, the Association of Art Museum Directors will do exactly what I said it should do—review how members are following (or not) the association’s 2008 guidelines for antiquities collecting.

AAMD’s just released rundown of highlights from its midwinter meeting’s agenda includes this hot-button colloquy (unfortunately closed to the public):

A presentation about the application of AAMD’s guidelines [emphasis added] for collecting antiquities and ancient art, and updates on changes in the field, led by Maxwell Anderson, chair, Task Force on Archaeological Material & Ancient Art; Sharon Cott, general counsel, Metropolitan Museum of Art; and [attorney] Josh Knerly, Hahn Loeser & Parks.

In my recent post on AAMD’s use and (in some cases) misuse of its Object Registry, I noted that the intended benefit of AAMD’s guidelines for antiquities collecting—to diminish financial incentives for looters and their marketplace enablers—“is lost if museums repeatedly demonstrate a willingness to shell out money for pieces with problematic pasts, using their publication on a registry as a pretext to skirt the UNESCO guidelines that they purport to uphold.”

While I assume that AAMD’s plans to discuss this topic were already in place before my post on this subject, I’ve now got another suggestion that I hope they’ll implement: Post a real-time webcast of that session, or at least post a video after the meeting has concluded, editing it, if necessary, to protect any needs for confidentiality.

Anderson, who is leading this session, is aggressively pro-transparency, having posted 14 objects that belonged on AAMD’s registry but hadn’t been put there by his predecessor at the Dallas Museum of Art.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall for this upcoming discussion. If we can’t view the presentation, perhaps something that we can look forward to is a detailed written report or a forceful new statement on what constitutes the proper (and improper) use of AAMD’s Object Registry.

At the very least, we need something more to the point than this statement released to me last week when I asked AAMD to respond to my critique of how some of its museums have been less than vigilant in following both the letter and the spirit of the association’s acquisition guidelines

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