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December 01, 2008

Letters in Response to the Op-Ed

Dear Ms. Waxman –
I read with great interest your article in today’s New York Times but I suggest that there is an aspect of artifact ownership which you have neglected to consider and that is the caretaker and protective responsibility that goes with such ownership. There is a responsibility to preserve for future generations these artifacts which I dare to suggest did not then nor perhaps even now does not exist within some of these home countries. Some of these treasured artifacts would not exist today if they had been left in situ rather than ‘looted’.
My wife and I had the pleasure of being in the Uffizi Gallery one balmy summer day a few years ago. Our pleasure turned to astonishment when the guard in the gallery walked around the room and threw open the windows to the moist pollution laden Florentine air. This is not the best conditions under which to preserve antiquities. (This is the same questions that family courts grapple with concerning the placement of children back to their parents from foster care.)
Take Care,
Robert Koffsky

as a history buff,I will be securing a copy of your book soon.
Ihave loved the background history of the many objects d` art at the Met, one of my favorite places to go, along with Chicago Art Institute.You write on great topics,and this is but one dear to me heart, as well as the recent tomes on art looted by Soviets and  Nazis[ think the mystery of the Amber Room].
Write on,never stop. Timothy Abbott


Dear Ms. Waxman:
I read your important op-ed piece in today’s NYT.
I am curious about the Elgin Marbles, however.  Fifty-two years ago, I took a course on Greek art and archeology at Washington University taught by George Mylonas, the Greek-born excavator of Mycenae and Eleusis. He stated that had Lord Elgin not taken the marbles they would have been ground up for plaster as had already been happening to other of the Parthenon’s sculture.  Years later, in 1980, while taking my family around the Akropolis, I bought a guidebook that blamed Lord Elgin for stealing these antiquities.  However, if the Greek archeologist (whose credentials in 1980 earned him the position of being in charge of the restoration of the Akropoolis) was correct, in absconding with the sculptures, Lord Elgin rescued them. Alternatively, if he had hadn’t taken then, they would not be in existence for anyone to see.   How this bears on the question of who should “own” them and have them on display in another issue, but the facts of the case should be clear, and it should not be used as a cause celebre to illustrate the outright thievery of antiquities that takes place on a regular basis around the Mediterranean world, including Iraq thanks to the sloppy administration of Mr. Bush’s war.
George Nickelsburg
Professor emeritus, The University of Iowa


I thought this was a great column till the very end when you said that the treasures might be better preserved, etc., in the world’s great museums.  Turkey has one of the best natural history museums I’ve ever visited in the city of Antalya on the Mediterranean coast.  There are two tombs there depicting the labors of Herakles, the second one incomplete because some of the panels were looted.  Turkey is a center of European tourism with a very classy tourist industry and ubiquitous, knowledgeable English speaking guides.  I doubt they tacitly believe their antiquities are safer in New York or London.  As for being “more widely adored,” I expect they’d just as soon attract the visitors themselves.

Kathleen Orange


Congratulations on your superb article on the appropriated treasure of the Met.
And what of the quantities of stolen Jewish documents and cultural treasures hidden in the underground caves of the Vatican?These items are there because of murder and plunder.
This patrimony belongs in Israeli and Jewish museums and institutions. Surely this must be investigated and resolved.

Your admirer,

Winston J. Lung Kulok


Mark Durney

I thoroughly enjoyed your article and made it a point to reference and respond to a few of your points in one of my most recent blog posts.

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