Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Harvard Crimson Makes My Day

Today, the Harvard Crimson published this piece in their opinion section imploring Harvard and others to be more open to repatriating art objects. Harvard recently dodged a repatriation bullet after federal judge George O'Toole Jr. ruled that an Iranian group representing terrorist victims had no right to seize Persian artifacts from Harvard's Peabody Museum and the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. However, despite the Crimson's agreement with this ruling, they express concern that rulings such as this will reinforce Western institutions' belief in their right to keep the rest of the world's cultural heritage firmly in the West.
"We would not dispute that collections in the great Western museums have served as infinite sources of education, enjoyment, and awe for countless residents and tourists of these cities. There is even an argument to be made that more people across the world encounter and learn from these artifacts in a Western museum than would were they all returned to the sites of their creation. However, the purpose of a historical artifact is the rare insight it affords the world of the present into the world of the past, and the value of that insight depends upon a conversation between the object's current home and the site of its creation."
The article expresses hope that Harvard will follow the example of its peer institution, Yale, which is now moving to create a jointly operated research center with the Peruvian government after a lawsuit called for the repatriation of certain Incan artifacts. They conclude, "We can only hope that Harvard's approach in the future will be one of active engagement with the cultures from which many of the artifacts in its museum were taken and that the Rubin case doesn't set a precedent of stifling discourse between East and West."

In a word, swoon. I could not have said this better myself. This article is so dead on, and I am so excited that it's been published by such a hugely influential college newspaper. My only frustration is that the byline simply says, "The Crimson Staff". WHO IS THIS PERSON? I WANT TO TALK TO YOU. EMAIL ME.


  1. The byline says "The Crimson Staff" because it was a staff editorial, meaning the opinion and the individual arguments expressed are a product of the staff of The Harvard Crimson.


    Naveen Srivatsa
    President, The Harvard Crimson

  2. Could not agree more on this one. Naveen and his colleagues can only be congratulated. Let us hope this is read by the right people.

    Great blog, Meg!