Friday, July 07, 2017

Implications of the Hobby Lobby case

ANALYSIS: Hobby Lobby’s Black-Market Buys Did Real Damage (Candida Moss and Joel Baden, NYT). Moss and Baden discuss the settlement of Hobby Lobby with the U.S. Department of Justice over improper acquisition of antiquities. The settlement was announced earlier this week.
Although we can now point to a large number of items in the collection that were illicitly acquired, there remain thousands and thousands more about which we can say nothing: not because their provenance is clean, but because it is unknown. Though scholars have been pleading for years with the Greens and the Museum of the Bible to provide all of the information for all of their artifacts, there has been no transparency whatsoever.

If the Museum of the Bible truly wants to distance itself from the illicit antiquities dealings of Hobby Lobby, it should make available to the public the full provenance of every item it displays, and of all those that are not visible to the public. If there are more artifacts that were purchased from the black market, they should be forfeited or repatriated—voluntarily.
As the essay indicates, this story brings up difficult wider issues regarding the acquiring and use of unprovenanced artifacts that may have come from the black market. Background here and links.

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