Home Forums Who owns the past? Who owns the past? Reply To: Who owns the past?

Miranda Johansson

When it comes to the question of who owns the past, in a sense, I feel like we all do. Not to completely globalize every historical event, but most historical events and ideas have affected many of our societies in one way or an other. However, when it comes to artifacts that are found and displaying them in museums – I feel conflicted. For example, many of the artifacts that we have seen are excavated from ancient cultures and moved to completely different geographical locations for display. The Funerary Krater that was found in the Dipylon Cemetery in Athens is on display in New York. The White-Ground Ceramic Painting is in Scotland. There are other artifacts that were found in Italy and Greece that are displayed in museums there, which seems more appropriate. Or if we look at the gold mask of Tutankhamun that is not displayed in Egypt, while the Palette of King Narmer was not allowed to leave Egypt. This seems more culturally sensitive that the culture that owns the artifact is consulted before it leaves their country.
Now, it is not always possible to consult the culture, especially if we are looking at ancient cultures that are not existent anymore. But have these cultures really past? Did they not influence cultures that do still exist today? Would this not be their heritage and therefore knowledge that they have a right to? I think that it is important to maintain cultural sensitivity and relevance when looking at art, instead of a finders keepers attitude, we need to understand and be sensitive to the importance that an artifact may have to a current culture.