For Sale: Our Cultural Heritage

More than 1,400 lots of gold coins, silver ingots, emerald crosses, cannons, flintlocks, swords and the like go to the auction block at the end of the month. [note: image is not from auction site.] Most of these artifacts were pulled from shipwrecks. Now they appeared headed to the private vaults of dilettante numismatists and treasure hunters. Too bad the rest of the world won’t get to see or study them. Too bad the stories of exploitation, murder and slavery (among others) embodied in each artifact will never be told, save for a fashionable dinner party or two. Happy bidding folks.

Irony: we have the technology and know-how to locate and retrieve cultural artifacts in some of the deepest parts of the ocean. Those artifacts, however, remain as inaccessible to most people as they were before they left the bottom. The reasons why are many. The situation–the privatization of our finite cultural heritage–is deplorable.

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3 Comments

Filed under Announcement

3 responses to “For Sale: Our Cultural Heritage

  1. nadina

    so i take it you haven’t signed up for the color catalog?
    also, could you blog more about the abandoned shipwreck act? is it that the state isn’t protecting the “treasures” from being removed or is it that the state is actually selling it???? either is an outrage!??!??!??

    • Jamin Wells

      No, no catalog for me. I know just enough about the ASA to know that I don’t know enough to post intelligently about it. I imagine the items up for auction are all legally above board, but that doesn’t make selling them ethical. But you’re right — it’s an outrage no matter how you look at it.

      • nadina

        I’m going to try to attend this lecture to see what’s up:
        “S.S. Central America Treasure: Numismatic Time Capsule”
        (only if I don’t have to commit to the whole seminar….)

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