English 09 Pre-Assessment STUDENT COPY - Who Owns the Past Source 1 Returning Antiquities to Their Countries of Origin by Joyce Mortimer 1 Antiquities

English 09 Pre-Assessment STUDENT COPY - Who Owns the Past...

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Who Owns the Past? Source 1: Returning Antiquities to Their Countries of Origin by Joyce Mortimer1Antiquities are ancient objects and artworks. Many people visit museums to view antiquities. They enjoy seeing these relics of the ancient world as a way of understanding past cultures and sometimes connecting with their own heritage.2Museums acquire works to display from many different sources. Sometimes they purchase them. Other times they receive donations. Today there are strict ethical guidelines forbidding art that has been stolen or looted from other countries. However, artifacts that have been at museums for decades or even centuries may havearrived there by dubious1means. Now, some countries claim that museums have an obligation to restore these artifacts to their original location.3There are many examples of this debate. Perhaps the most famous is the controversy between Greece and the United Kingdom (UK) over the Elgin marbles. In the early 19thcentury, the Earl of Elgin had numerous sculptures taken from Greece to the UK. These included half of the surviving sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens. When Elgin did this, Greece was still a part of the Ottoman Empire. He claimed that he had received a permit to export the sculptures. Today the marbles are on display in the British Museum. However, Greece wants them to be restored to their original locations.4This issue also affects people in the United States. Many Native American tribes’ antiquities are on display in museums. The museums may have acquired them at a time when Native American sites were often denigrated2and looted. Some museums have objects that were made for private Native American religious ceremonies and were never meant to be seen by the public. These include masks, shields, and objects used in funeral and medicinal rites. Since 1990 the U.S. government has, in some instances, facilitated the return of these unique cultural items from institutions that receive federal funding.1dubious: questionable2denigrated: belittled; looked down upon
5Should museums return these antiquities? Experts disagree. Malcolm Bell III says yes. Bell is a professor emeritus3of art at the University of Virginia. He says, “Many artifactsand works of art have special cultural value for a particular community or nation. When these works are removed from their original cultural setting they lose their context and the culture loses a part of its history.” 6According to Bell, a country’s request for the return of an antiquity “usually has a strong legal basis.” It “was exported illegally, probably also excavated illegally, and . . . isnow . . . stolen property.” He called the return of antiquities “an expression of justice.”7James Cuno says not always. Cuno is the president of the J. Paul Getty Trust, an art museum in Los Angeles. He is also past president of the Art Institute of Chicago and the author of the book Who Owns Antiquity? Cuno agrees that museums have “an

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