The curatorial faculty of The University Museum today reached the unanimous conclusion that they would purchase no more art objects or antiquities for the Museum unless the objects are accompanied by a pedigree—that is information about the different owners of the objects, place of origin, legality of export, and other data useful in each individual case. The information will be made public. This decision was recommended by the Director of the Museum, Froelich Rainey, and also by the Chairman of the Board of Managers, Howard C. Petersen.
The action of the University staff is the result of an increasing illicit trade in cultural objects, particularly antiquities, which is causing major destruction of archaeological sites in many countries throughout the world. Practically all countries now have strict controls on the export of antiquities but it is clear that such controls do not stop the looting and destruction of archaeological sites, probably because high prices paid for antiquities in the international market make it impossible for the countries of origin to stop the movement across their borders.
The United Nations Organization, through UNESCO, is now discussing an international convention which proposes, among other things, that the major importing countries for these objects, such as the United States, West Germany, France and England, should introduce more rigid import controls in order to restrict the trade and protect the archaeological sites in countries such as Turkey, Iran, and Italy.
It is the considered opinion of The University Museum group of archaeologists and anthropologists who work in many countries throughout the world, that import controls in the importing countries will be no more effective than the export controls in the exporting countries. Probably the only effective way to stop this wholesale destruction of archaeological sites is to regulate the trade in cultural objects within each country just as most countries in the world today regulate domestic trade in foodstuffs, drugs, securities, and other commodities. The looting of sites is naturally done by the nationals of each country and the illicit trade is carried out by them and by the nationals of many countries. Hence the preservation of the cultural heritage for mankind as a whole is, in fact, a domestic problem for all nations.
The staff of The University Museum hope that their action taken today will encourage other museums not only in the United States but in other nations to follow a similar procedure in the purchase of significant art objects, at least until the United Nations succeeds in establishing an effective convention to control this destructive trade.