10.14.2008

CPAC New Member: Brent R. Benjamin

I've been slightly repulsed by some of the reaction to the appointment of Brent R. Benjamin, Director of the St. Louis Art Museum, to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC).

I was going to write surprised, but the whole issue of cultural property has become so nutty, that I'm really not all that surprised - (see, for example, the 'answer' to this post, which was in itself an answer to the anonymous bile to this post ... yes, the field really has degenerated into throwing mud at anyone who does not disagree with the silly mantra of 'collecting bad' / 'US military = army of satan' or who does not have psychic powers).

I think that Brent R. Benjamin was a good appointment, and based on the little I know of him I have great hopes that he will work in the interests of museums, as he was appointed to do. Benjamin is a 'museum' appointee to the committee, which is made up of a broad spectrum of interests, as mandated by law. Some people are angry that the committee is not entirely made up of archaeologists, but it cannot be, nor should it be - that would be like having a Committee devoted to finding peace in the Middle East made up only of Syrians.

I believe that looted and stolen items should be returned. But I also believe that the term 'stolen' is bandied about too freely and over-used. Benjamin refused to 'return' a piece to Egypt because he was not offered proof that it had been stolen; had he returned it without proof, he would have been in dereliction of his duty as the Director of the St. Louis Art Museum.

For further comment, I recommend:
Sour Grapes by Wayne G. Sayles at Ancient Coin Collecting
Brent R. Benjamin of Saint Louis Art Museum Named to CPAC Museum Seat and SAFE "Campaign" Against the Appointment of Brent R. Benjamin to CPAC by Peter Tompa at Cultural Property Observer

I am delighted with Brent R. Benjamin's appointment, and wish him all the best for his term on the CPAC.

Oh, and I think his name has been dragged through the mud enough, so will be deleting any slanderous comments about him.

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