Stupid Countries, Stupider Museums
The message to museum visitors around the world: “You like this pot? Belize has got a million of ‘em!”
Belize could put the pots to work bringing them tourist business, rather than allowing them to turn to dust.
Machu Picchu and Hiram Bingham
Hiram Bingham III, a teacher of South American history at Yale University, went to Peru in 1911 looking for a redoubt in the Andes and stumbled upon Machu Picchu, the great Inca cosmopolitan center. The following year, under the sponsorship of the National Geographic Society and Yale, he returned to Peru for architectural digs and sent back to New Haven almost 5,000 artifacts.
In this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, Arthur Lubow was not enthusiastic about Bingham’s loot, some of which is on display at Yale’s Peabody Museum. “Mostly, the pieces are bones in varying stages of decomposition” he writes, “or pots, many of them in fragments.”
Now Peru wants them back.
Why doesn’t the Peruvian Ministry of Tourism say to Yale, “Hey, if your visitors like these artifacts, we got a million of ‘em down here! Come see Machu Picchu for real, and while you’re at it, take a side trip to the Galapagos Islands and a spin down the Amazon! And, oh, by the way, we’ll reciprocate by making Yale Peabody Museum brochures available here.”
The Elgin Marbles
Atop the Acropolis, that big hill overlooking the city of Athens, stands the ruins of the Parthenon, a huge temple built in honor of the goddess Athena in the 5th century B.C. Over the years it was turned into a Roman Catholic church, a mosque and, under the Turks, it became a gunpowder magazine. In the 1687 siege of the Acropolis by the Venetians, a cannon ball hit the magazine and the building exploded, blowing off the roof, severely damaging the columns and destroying many of the sculptures from the pediment. A number of these sculptures were subsequently smashed, ground into lime and used for building materials.