August 20, 2012
To the Editor:
Re “Museum Defends Antiquities Collecting” (Arts pages, Aug. 13):
Your article about the Cleveland Museum’s collecting policy does not address one of the more important aspects of collecting unprovenanced antiquities: it gives legal and financial exposure to the institution.
In recent years many museums and private collectors have had to return unprovenanced antiquities when they were seized by United States Customs or the F.B.I. or were the objects of lawsuits brought by source countries.
Acquiring antiquities without documented provenance risks the refusal of source countries to lend objects and a boycott by the very scholars and archaeologists with whom the museum collaborates on the study and exhibition of its collections.
It ill behooves museums, institutions supported by public funds, to contribute to the destruction of the world’s cultural heritage by encouraging tomb robbing and the illicit trade in antiquities, activities with connections to organized crime and international money laundering.
New York, Aug. 13, 2012
The writer is president of the Archaeological Institute of America.