Jul 2, 2011

Should a Museum Hire Marion True?

la dea di Morgantina
Malcolm Bell thinks so. He holds a position as emeritus professor of Greek art at the University of Virginia and the co-director of the American archaeological excavation at Morgantina. He has written a long review of Felch and Frammolino's 'Chasing Aphrodite'. Morgantina was the site of course where the limestone goddess was looted, and had it not been looted, Bell may well have recovered it and its full context. In 1988 when the goddess was sold to the Getty for $18 million, Marion True sent him photographs of the sculpture, asking if he knew about it. He did not, though he does write that his "lack of knowledge offered no form of assurance that it did not come from Morgantina".

So it is quite surprising perhaps that Bell comes to the conclusion that the book 'undervalues' the contribution of Marion True to efforts at reform. He concludes with the following paragraph:

Today the archaeologist's belief that ancient sites must be protected, and that ancient artifacts are best studied when we know most about them, is widely shared by our museum colleagues. That there has been a convergence of views is owed in good part to Marion True, whose bitter experience offers lessons to all parties. Her contributions far outweigh her mistakes, and were I today to be asked to recommend someone to fill a major museum position, she would be the first person to come to my mind.
Will partisans accuse Bell of not reading the book because he makes a controversial argument, or instead take his arguments on the merits?

  1. Malcolm Bell, The Beautiful and the True, wsj.com, July 2, 2011, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303339904576405983959162302.html?mod=googlenews_wsj (last visited Jul 2, 2011).



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