The question of lost antiquities and their ownership is a big topic which I won't attempt to cover here in detail, besides making a few points. Khmer artifacts can be found all over the world, either in museums or private collections. They were of course once resident in Cambodia and the Khmer Empire but under varying guises, have been spirited away to the far corners and few show little sign of coming home. The permanent return of these items seems off the agenda with the big museums such as the Guimet in Paris, whilst loans may be a possible way forward. Many Khmer artifacts were removed from their original location during the colonialism of Cambodia by France. For some museum owners the idea of them being returned to their country of origin is a non starter. "We do not see the return of objects that were acquired honestly 100 years ago as constructive. Especially as they are established and accessible institutions that are open to the public that house them. As in most things, one can't readdress the circumstances of history in objects acquired before 1970. I hope the museums of the 21st century and countries in the 21st century will be able and open to sharing objects for short or long periods of time. In this vision there would be a clear acceptance of governmental or institutional ownership, but there would an ever lessening emphasis on objects representing only the clear identity of specific people or nations," says Michael Conforti, president of the Art Museum Directors in the USA. Well, he would say that wouldn't he, promoting the notion of the universal museum in the 21st century, rather than having to give up items that were often acquired in murky circumstances. It's a debate that will rage on regardless.
Labels: Phnom Rung