Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer— 2007 Outstanding Public Service Award

Award Citation:

In the course of his long and distinguished museum career, Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer has exemplified the professional and personal values that the Outstanding Public Service Award was created to honor. As director of the Antikensammlung der Staatliche Museen in Berlin, he brought one of the world’s most exceptional archaeological collections ever more vitally into the contemporary cultural sphere. Contributing to the master plan for reorganizing Berlin’s Museum Island and conceiving of its celebrated “archaeological promenade” are two of his most notable achievements. Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer oversaw the restoration of the great Pergamon Altar, expanded online access to collections, and organized numerous highly acclaimed exhibitions. His engagement with ancient art extends beyond the gallery, both to the classroom, as a professor at the Free University of Berlin since 1977, and to the pursuit of fieldwork, as an excavator for three seasons at Olympia. Despite the intense demands of museum administration, Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer has remained a prolific scholar. He is the author of more than a dozen books that elucidate the arts, cultures, and legacy of classical antiquity.

For his energetic leadership in the swiftly evolving field of museum ethics, Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer has earned Orders of Merit from the Republics of Italy and Greece. He played a decisive role in the restitution of a sarcophagus looted from Ostia Antica, prompting Italian archaeologists to reciprocate with generous long-term loans. In the contentious arena of archaeological heritage, his subsequent success in mobilizing a cooperative network of German and Italian museums is paying handsome dividends. This critical initiative facilitates conservation and exchanges of information while bringing remarkable works of art and fresh discoveries to wider audiences. Based on practical solutions, such pioneering museum partnerships respond to the sorts of challenges that institutions with antiquities collections must confront. We are indebted to this director for a dynamic example of sound museum practice in a leading market country. Proactive and collaborative, Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer has convened major conferences and crafted international agreements to address the illicit antiquities trade. One such landmark document, the 2003 Berlin Resolution, calls upon the museum and art market communities to adopt the highest standards for acquisitions and urges the framing of comprehensive ethical codes for archaeologists. In lasting ways, his work has revitalized the role of museums as a public trust. His career has been devoted to a mission that museum professionals and archaeologists share: creative and responsible stewardship of archaeological collections.

In recognition of exceptional achievements in museum leadership and for promoting international cooperation to preserve and celebrate archaeological heritage in the public interest, the Archaeological Institute of America is honored to present its 2007 Outstanding Public Service Award to Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer.

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