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

Guy Gaswint

The questions of ‘who owns the past?’ and ‘can the past be owned?’ have resulted in many battles over art in modern times. Some people claim that an artifact should belong to the person who found it, or the nation that funded the excavation. Others argue that the artifact should belong to the person/nation on whose land it was found. Still others believe it should belong to the culture that made it. But what if that culture no longer exists? Nothing is black and white in this argument and there are many shades of gray. Weigh in on this discussion and use examples from Greek culture and other cultures that we are studying.
I believe that artifacts should be owned by the country in which it was discovered. When we discuss history than we have to consider who does that history belong to. A easy example is the use of a nuclear bomb, the U.S. owns that history exclusively. That Japanese people own the history of being the only ones attacked with a nuclear weapon. I believe history can be owned.
The same is true with art weather we want to recognize it or not, someone or group(s) always owns, or is responsible for history. The Egyptians have recently declared that they will no longer lend out artifacts to other museums, that in itself establishes a sort of ownership.
Most will agree that architecture is a form of art, obviously structures are owned by the country it is in, you can not just take a building with you. The same should apply to any artifacts regardless of portability.