On 25 October 2014 I organised a one day seminar in Manchester on issues of provenance, with two main aims, to bring together experts in different fields and professions, and to try to find some ways forward in a discussion which is often stuck because of the confrontational positions taken by different parties.
My main problem was that reflected into the title question: should scholars publish ancient objects the provenance of which is unknown or dubious? But in order to solve such a dilemma, I thought it was necessary to address many other related issues. What do we mean through the term ‘provenance’? What kind of information scholars need to access when collections or collectors ask them to publish an ancient manuscript or piece of art? Should we be guided by the law or ethic when making decisions? What should academics do in case they discover that a papyrus fragment or a Greek vase has a doubtful acquisition history? If we don’t publish, where such material will end up? And so on.
The conversation with academics, dealers, museums and libraries curators, directors and members of learned societies, students, and many others I have been talking to has brought some clarity – and some change – in my personal views on the matter as you will read through future posts in the blog.
In this video I present the reasons of the seminar (strong and proud Italian-English, as you already know). Material produced in that context is available through the scroll bar on top of this page, or you can use this link. I hope other people will leave comments on the questions here posed.