Museums and the market: passive facilitation of the illicit trade in antiquities

Yates, D. and Smith, E. (2022) Museums and the market: passive facilitation of the illicit trade in antiquities. In: Stevenson, A. (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Museum Archaeology. Series: Oxford handbooks. Oxford University Press: Oxford, pp. 87-97. ISBN 9780198847526 (doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198847526.013.11)

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The connection between the illicit trade in looted antiquities and museums is more nuanced than museum ethics codes currently address. This chapter explores the role that museums play in the transnational illicit trade in antiquities, considering how museums serve as ‘Receivers’ and ‘Influencers’ both driving the market and acting as a public social conscience working against it. As ‘receivers’, museums bring illicit antiquities into their collection via direct sales or donations, obscuring or ignoring the illicit origins of the object, thus validating the trade. As ‘influencers’, museums set trends of cultural consumption among buyers through blockbuster exhibitions that have a trickle-down effect towards what is looted ‘on the ground’. They also influence market values through their purchases, their collaboration with antiquities collectors, and their display of privately held works of dubious provenance. Contrastingly, some museums challenge the purchase of illicit antiquities through targeted exhibitions, education of donors, and strict acquisition policies.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Yates, Dr Donna and Smith, Dr Emiline
Authors: Yates, D., and Smith, E.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Publisher:Oxford University Press
Published Online:18 August 2022

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