Wednesday, March 29, 2006

$200 Million Gift Triggers Backlash at NYU

By Michael Balter
ScienceNOW Daily News
28 March 2006
When New York University (NYU) officials announced last week the creation of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, it was widely seen as a major coup. The new Ph.D.-granting research institute, devoted to the art, archaeology, history, literature, and geography of ancient societies, was made possible by a private gift of $200 million in cash and real estate, one of the largest donations the university has ever landed. Yet some NYU faculty, along with outside archaeologists, are aghast that the school accepted the money. One leading NYU archaeologist has already resigned from the university's existing ancient studies center to protest the decision.

I'm less tolerant of antiquities collecting than I used to be, and after the forgery scandal in Israel I hope Shelby White will think twice about continuing to collect. She has promised to "deal with" anything in the collection that she "should not have bought," which is good, although I'm sure that one could debate what exactly that last quoted phrase should mean. But in any case the Leon Levy Foundation has done an immense amound of good for archaeology and the study of antiquity and I think it would be counterproductive for NYU to turn down the gift.

(Heads up, reader Carla Sulzbach.)

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