Tatiana Flessas (Law Department, London School of Economics) has a new work-in-progress titled “The Ends of the Museum“.
Here’s the Abstract:
In recent years, there have been a plethora of cases in which museums have had to release treasured pieces. New legal initiatives and developments increasingly make repatriation claims by source nations and other single or group ‘original owners’ possible, most recently in the area of illicitly-trafficked antiquities. Modern scholarship radically questions the genealogy and functions of the museum, and its relationship with the concepts of space, culture, and identity. Much of the criticism comes from heretofore allied disciplines, in particular, archaeology. Museums are now searching for strategies to protect their collections from the loss of authority and status that attend repatriation claims in this climate of criticism. Yet, do museums collude in this loss of authority by joining in the ‘propertization’ of their collections? Embedded in the notion of modern museology is the primacy of the object. This, arguably,aids the legal and political initiatives that permit deaccessioning of objects, imposing external requirements on the retention or return of certain types of collections, and regulating the relationship between the collector and the museum. This article suggests that the complex of emerging laws and practices in the area of antiquities collecting points to a new understanding of the relationship between repatriation and museums.