Thursday, 7 April 2011

Welcome back home, Morgantina Aphrodite!

Take a look at this very interesting posting about the return of Aphrodite to Aidone,  its original site in Sicily. Some big lessons to be learned from this! 
Cultural Heritage in Danger: Returning archeological artifacts to local communities: the example of the Morgantina Aphrodite

I was particularly interested in their analysis of  how the restitution of significant artefacts may impact on various aspects of the local community: 

"... as reaffirmation of the right to one own cultural patrimony, and as opportunity to use the cultural heritage for helping and improving the economy of local disadvantaged communities through sustainable cultural tourism. The network formed by the Aidone’s Archaeological Museum, with its growing collections, the Morgantina’s Archeological site, and the Villa Del Casale - a Roman villa in the near town of Piazza Armerina, which contains the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world, and it’s one of 44 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Italy – can be an example of how to preserve and convey historical and cultural values of a specific heritage site in accurate and engaging ways, at the same time integrating its economic opportunities to the area where it is located, and in doing so sustaining and improving the local quality of life."

And, take a moment to digest their views on the "universal museum approach"!

1 comment:

  1. The more I read about such repatriation cases the more suspicious I become of people’s motives for reclaiming back ‘their heritage’. Rafael brought up an important point in the previous post when he said that “we must consider the reasons why different countries want those artefacts back, whether just for pride or for other reasons”.

    The article mentions two reasons why the restitution of the statue was so important. The first one was the ‘right to own one’s cultural patrimony’, and the other the “opportunity to use the cultural heritage for helping and improving the economy … through sustainable cultural tourism”. Why are the only two reasons mentioned ‘ownership’ and ‘economical benefits’? Apart from that it really is a material world I don’t know what lesson I should have learnt from this. Where are the loving stories of homecoming, local identity and pride?

    When looking at the few websites dedicated to the museum I noticed that the materials on display come from an excavation that has been done by the Americans in the 1950s. The statue was stolen between 1970 and 1980. That’s a timespan of 10 years during which the site could have been looted! Why can no one pinpoint the looting to a more accurate date? A two meter statue must have left a large gaping hole in the ground and must have been difficult to transport! Or was it lying on the ground somewhere and did the thieves tuck it under their arms and carried it off? Has anyone bothered to keep an eye on the site between the 1950s (when the Americans left) and 1984 (when the museum was inaugurated)? For all I know the site might have been left unprotected for roughly 30 years!

    I also find it ironic that the statue’s place of origin is an ancient Greek colony. Would this not make the statue the cultural property of Greece as well? Perhaps if the town really wishes to defend the right to own one’s cultural patrimony it should suggest a joint ownership of the statue with Greece! (Kind of like having divorced parents. You get the statue for 6 months a year, and we for the other 6).

    The author’s uptake on universal museums is so biased and uninformed that I would need a 3000 word essay to cover my problems with her view.

    Museum Websites: One and Two


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