The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #171928   Message #4168053
Posted By: Stilly River Sage
20-Mar-23 - 12:56 PM
Thread Name: Armchair Archaeologist (via Google Earth) pt 2
Subject: RE: Armchair Archaeologist (via Google Earth) pt 2

‘The stuff was illegally dug up’: New York’s Met Museum sees reputation erode over collection practices

An investigation identified hundreds of artifacts linked to indicted or convicted traffickers. What does this mean for the future of museums?
In the village of Bungmati, Nepal, above an ancient spring, stand two stone shrines and a temple. On the side of one of those shrines is a large hole where a statue of Shreedhar Vishnu, the Hindu protector god, used to be.

Carved by master artisans nearly a thousand years ago, the sandstone relic was carefully tended and worshipped by local people. Sometime in the early 1980s that tradition abruptly ended when thieves removed the 20-inch statue. A Bungmati resident, Buddha Ratna Tuladhar, recalls how the community was “overwhelmed by melancholy” over its loss. “We kept hoping the statue would be restored, but it never was,” he said.

About a decade after the theft, and on the other side of the world, a wealthy American collector donated the statue to New York City’s celebrated Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it would remain for nearly 30 years, until an anonymous Facebook account called the Lost Arts of Nepal finally identified it, in 2021. Although the Met has since removed the statue from its publicly listed collection, signaling that it may soon be returned, the damage to the Bungmati community was already done.

“Nepal has a living religion where these idols are actively worshiped in temples. People pray to them and take them out during festivals for ceremonies,” said Roshan Mishra, a volunteer with the Nepal Heritage Recovery Campaign, a coalition formed to restore the country’s lost heritage. “When relics are stolen, those festivals stop. Each stolen statue erodes our culture. Our traditions fade and are eventually forgotten.”

In the antiquities trade, the Met’s reputation has also begun to erode. Over the last two years, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its news media partners have reported on the Met’s acquisition practices – often in relation to a trove of items obtained from Cambodia in an era when that country’s cultural heritage was sold off wholesale to the highest bidder. A broader examination of the Met’s antiquities collection, conducted by ICIJ, Finance Uncovered, L’Espresso and other media partners over recent months, raises new concerns over the origin of the museum’s inventory of ancient statues, friezes and other relics.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opened in 1880, long after its counterparts in Paris and London. The museum started out with a purchase of 174 paintings, placing it far from the scale of France’s palatial Louvre’s galleries already holding thousands of works, many inherited from the nation’s colonial exploits.

The rest is at the link.