The Preservation of Artifacts
By: Jina Choi
What would you think if someone asked you to return an item you’d already paid for? You would have the right to reject it because you have already paid for it. Some countries want heritage items to be returned to their own countries from museums that currently house the items. However, these museums do have a right to deny those requests. The artifacts have to be kept in the museum because many of these objects have been legally acquired, museums are better able to keep them intact, and heritage is not only the cultural heritage of the country itself but of the world. Additionally, artifacts should be kept and displayed in museums because this way they are more accessible to the public.
Since the museum has already duly acquired the heritage items, ownership belongs to the museum. When museums are asked to return such items, “There are many legitimate reasons that a museum may decline such requests. Perhaps museum funds were used in the past to legally purchase an exhibit with the full cooperation of the native country at that time.” (“Museums Preserve the Cultures of the World”). The museum formally brought their legacy through museum funding, which is legal and justified. The museum tells the story of how the objects were obtained: “Most often, museums acquire objects with full cooperation from the originating country, either accepting them as donations or purchasing them outright” (“Bring Them Home”). Museums acquired heritage items through cooperation with the countries of origin. This shows that ownership of the artifacts rests with the museum.
Museums can preserve artifacts better than countries of origin. They say that museums can prevent artifacts from destruction and deterioration: “Perhaps the museum that houses ancient treasures is far better equipped to preserve them from destruction and deterioration” (“Museums Preserve the Cultures of the World”). Because “Museum professionals are experts, trained in the best ways to preserve and restore ancient art and other relics, and they are dedicated to this mission” (“Museums Preserve the Cultures of the World”) it only makes sense that artifacts live at museums. Because these professionals have experience in the art of preservation and have historically worked to preserve countless artifacts from all over the world, perhaps all artifacts should be appraised at museums or by these specialists in order to maintain the integrity of heritage artifacts we can collectively and continuously learn from.
Artifacts are not for the country of origin; they are for all citizens of the world. The other side insists that the inheritance be returned: “Since they now have the desire and capability to preserve their treasures, they argue that it is only right that they have the treasures themselves” (“Bring Them Home”). There may be cases where belongings are damaged or destroyed while moving to the home country. However, some artifacts belong to everyone in the world, not just those in their place of origin: “Most importantly, an excellent argument can be made that some treasures truly belong to all citizens of the world, not just to those in their country of origin” (“Museums Preserve the Cultures of the World”).
“Museums Preserve the Cultures of the World” and “Bring Them Home” discuss the ownership of world heritage items. The ownership of the relics belongs to museums, as they have previously been brought to museums in accordance with the law. Moreover, museums can keep the relics well-preserved with the resources and professionally trained staff. By being housed in museums and showcased in visiting exhibitions around the world, the relics can be shared by the citizens of the world. Therefore, the artifacts should primarily be kept in museums.
Sources: “Georgia-Milestones-End-of-Grade-Assessment-Guides” Assessment Research, Development and Administration, www.gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Assessment/Pages/Georgia-Milestones-End-of-Grade-Assessment-Guides.aspx.