I just listened to a very interesting story on Marketplace, discussing the pre-Islamic Afghani objects which are currently touring the United States. Two points. First, Afghanistan still is badly in need of funds and resources to protect sites; and second though the tour raises Afghanistan’s international profile and has a number of important benefits, it may also raise the desire of collectors to buy similar objects. This puts pressure on the limited enforcement mechanisms. Of course one possible solution is to dissuade collectors from buying these items, or we might even encourage source nations to consider marketing some of their surplus antiquities (a wildly controversial solution to be sure).
More on this travelling exhibition here. There has been concern in the past that Afghanistan didn’t quite get a fair deal out of this tour, though I think the piece speaks to this point. When Egyptian antiquities tour, the public associates Egypt with ancient civilizations. What does the American public currently think about when they think about Afghanistan? As the Afghan official pointed out, defining success for this Afghan tour is far different.