Not-so-free trade

Pasatiempo - - Mixed Media -

In his book Find­ers Keep­ers: A Tale of Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Plun­der and Ob­ses­sion, nat­u­ral­ist and ad­ven­turer Craig Childs ex­plores the mod­ern dilemma of ar­ti­fact col­lec­tion by ar­chae­ol­o­gists, mu­se­ums, and pri­vate col­lec­tors. With nearly 5 bil­lion ar­ti­facts cur­rently in pub­lic trust — and an un­told num­ber held legally and il­le­gally in pri­vate col­lec­tions — Childs won­ders if leav­ing ob­jects where they are found on pub­lic lands might be bet­ter than dig­ging them up and squir­rel­ing them away in mu­seum base­ments (and sub­ur­ban liv­ing rooms). The 1990 Na­tive Amer­i­can Graves Pro­tec­tion and Repa­tri­a­tion Act forces many to think twice be­fore slip­ping a pot­sherd into their pocket, but there’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween think­ing and do­ing in the pres­ence of a rare, an­cient ob­ject.

Ques­tions of own­er­ship are dif­fi­cult to an­swer, and Childs be­lieves a cri­sis of con­science among col­lec­tors can be averted if things are left where they are. At 6 p.m. Mon­day, Oct. 25, South­west Sem­i­nars presents “Find­ers Keep­ers: A Jour­ney Through the Un­der­world of the An­cient Ar­ti­fact Cul­ture,” a talk by Childs at Ho­tel Santa Fe (1501 Paseo de Per­alta) in con­junc­tion with the non­profit cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tion’s an­nual Mother Earth Fa­ther Sky lec­ture se­ries. Ad­mis­sion to the lec­ture is $12 at the door. Call 466-2775 for in­for­ma­tion.

Craig Childs

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