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Provenance Research: Litigation And The Responsibility Of Museums

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Chapter Summary

Issues regarding the legal and moral responsibilities of museums in connection with the acquisition of antiquities and other cultural properties have been hotly debated over the past several years by museum officials, lawyers, archaeologists, public officials, and other commentators. Indeed, sharp lines have been drawn, and two strikingly disparate points of view have emerged. On one side are many museum advocates who, while conceding that care should be shown and research performed before an acquisition, argue that antiquities can, and should, be acquired even in the absence of clear and convincing evidence that they have not been looted or are of questionable legal status. On the other side are archaeologists and other commentators who believe that if there is any doubt about the provenance of an antiquity being considered for acquisition, the transaction should not be completed.

Keywords: cultural properties; legal status; moral responsibilities; museum advocates; provenance research



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